The imbroglio surrounding the sea bridge between Trinidad and Tobago is having increasingly serious consequences for the residents, business people and visitors to Tobago. Despite its abundance of natural beauty, vast tracts of life-enhancing forest and tremendous potential for income generation, the island is suffering.
Tobago is dependent on Trinidad in terms of inter-island transport of persons, building materials, food, pharmaceutical and other related supplies and its reliance on governmental funding to run the affairs of the Tobago House of Assembly. An acknowledgement this falls far short of what is desirable and sustainable for Tobago has led to action at the national level.
According to the website, ttparliament.org, a new Bill before the Parliament, “The Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago Self Government) Bill, 2018 seeks to amend the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to accord self-government to Tobago and to repeal the Tobago House of Assembly Act. It needs the support of a special majority of three-fourths of all the Members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”
“The Bill acknowledges in the Preamble to the Constitution the right to self-determination for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, including the right of the people of Tobago to determine in Tobago their political status and to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
If the Bill is passed, the implications for Tobago are both exciting and extremely challenging. The unique identity of Tobago and all aspects of her cultural heritage will, hopefully, be preserved and consolidated for the sake of present and future generations and for the benefit and enjoyment of both local visitors and foreign tourists. This will entail parental, community, school-based and governmental education and reinforcement and a real pride in being Tobagonian.
The recognition of the special educational and employment needs of the island and a promotion of the fishing and agricultural industries will necessarily have to be prioritised.
Tobagonians have long planted their own ground provisions and small crops and have turned to the sea for a fresh source of protein. Anecdotal evidence from older people on the island indicates that many younger people have turned their backs on this traditional form of self-reliance as they prefer to be employed by the Tobago House of Assembly.
It would be useful to refer here to Cuba which, despite its problems and shortages, provides diners (albeit generally foreigners) with fresh, high quality local food. This promotes the image of the island as a tourist destination and it brings in valuable foreign exchange.
In addition to these traditional forms of employment, Tobagonians stand to benefit from the global job pool as educators at every level, as information technology specialists, medical personnel and inventors and researchers who seek to fulfill the ever-evolving needs of society.
Attention to the real needs of Tobago, a responsibly managed budget and an improved and sustained work ethic can transform the present gloomy outlook into a Resurrection experience for the island and indeed for the entire nation.