Finance division crucial to ‘balance of power’

The Assembly Legislature, Scarborough is currently deadlocked at six-six. The PNM and PDP are discussing a power-sharing arrangement. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS -
The Assembly Legislature, Scarborough is currently deadlocked at six-six. The PNM and PDP are discussing a power-sharing arrangement. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS –

The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) has made it clear that for any power-sharing arrangement between itself and the People’s National Movement (PNM) to work, it must be given control of the Division of Finance and the Economy.

Responding to PNM’s counter proposal on Friday, the PDP said it noted the PNM’s “silence” on its request for the position of secretary of finance and the economy, “which is critical in ensuring that there is a balance of power between both parties.”

The PDP said it is negotiating for equal responsibilities within the executive council.

The party said apart from the position of secretary of finance, it is also requesting the positions of secretary and assistant secretary of infrastructure, quarries and the environment; secretary and assistant secretary of health, wellness and the environment; and secretary and assistant secretary of settlements, housing and urban renewal.

The party also responded to PNM’s query about its lack of mention about a minority leader.

“The proposed governance arrangement is one where the parties will work collaboratively towards shared goals and as such, there will be no need for a dissenting voice in the form of a minority council.

“For this arrangement to work, we must first accept that there is no ‘big or little six,’ that a public declaration of our agreement on the distribution of divisions be made to promote transparency and that both parties must work hand in hand to ensure that ultimately Tobago wins.”

In a statement later on Friday, the PNM Tobago Council said negotiations with the PDP to form a joint administration in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) must be based on the principles of good governance.

“We are open to negotiations but will do so in an environment of mutual respect and based on the principles of good governance and in keeping with the THA Act,” the party quoted Tobago Council political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine as saying.

“As it relates to the PDP, she is of the view that once as they are ready for serious discussions, the PNM stands ready.”

Davidson-Celestine is further quoted in the statement as saying the Tobago Council voted resoundingly in favour of a collaborative arrangement for the management of the island’s affairs.

“A council meeting last Wednesday evening saw the membership embrace the possibility of a shared administration. This is a revolutionary policy change for the PNM, which, in previous years, said it would not enter into a coalition with any other political party.”

On Thursday, the PNM issued a statement recommending the PDP provide a candidate for the posts of deputy chief secretary, deputy presiding officer and be allocated four of the secretarial positions in the THA divisions and one councillor.

The PNM said it will provide the candidate for chief secretary, presiding officer and hold four secretarial positions.

However, Davidson-Celestine said both parties must still meet to “discuss other points we have proposed for an agreement, but when we meet those elements will have to be ironed out.”

She accused the PDP of breaching some of the clauses of the THA when it presented its proposal to the PNM on March 3 after the Prime Minister’s meeting with all 12 assemblymen at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands.

For example, Davidson-Celestine said the THA Act does not allow for equal sharing of councillors in the manner prescribed by the PDP.

Davidson-Celestine said the assembly must be reconvened because Tobagonians need good governance.

In its statement on Friday, the PNM said it has to be open and frank about what is needed to better serve the island and country “and to move with the times.

“The challenge today calls for a change in attitude and action and we are responding with the backlog of our membership, executive and Tobagonians.”