Members of the THA can cross the floor safely


PDP political leader Watson Duke at the party’s Trinidad office in Barataria on April 1. Duke has since resigned as deputy chief secretary of the THA. File photo/Angelo Marcelle

ANY elected member of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) can safely leave their political party without having to vacate their seat, under the crossing provision added to the TT Constitution that limits elected members from the House of Representatives, a look at the TT laws revealed.

It’s poignant now, given the tit-for-tat between Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader Watson Duke and Tobago House of Assembly (THA) leader Farley Augustine, in which Duke impeached Augustine in as deputy leader of the PDP while stepping down himself. as Deputy Chief Secretary of the THA.

Duke vowed not to quit the PDP saying he founded it, even as he alleged Augustine planned to form his own party.

A reading of the laws suggests that neither man’s THA seat is threatened by what happens to their respective party alignments.

In a provision inserted in 1978, the TT Constitution stipulates in Article 49(2) that a member of the House of Representatives must leave his seat in one of five circumstances, the last referring to the circumstances of crossing the parquet.

Section 49(2)(e) provides that a Member must vacate his seat when, “having been a candidate of a party and elected to the House, he resigns or is expelled by that party”.

The Tobago House of Assembly Act lists the circumstances under which a THA Assembly member’s seat becomes vacant, but this does not include changing parties. The THA Act, Section 19, states that his seat becomes vacant when he dies, resigns, is continuously absent without leave for 90 days or three sittings, ceases to qualify as a member of the Assembly, or becomes disqualified under Section 15. He is only qualified if he is a citizen of TT, qualified as a voter and residing in Tobago. He is disqualified if he is bankrupt, mentally ill, sentenced to death, disqualified under the Representation of the People Act (sections 31 and 32), holds a position in the THA or is a member of the House of Representatives, Senate or City Council. /regional company.

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine at the launch of the PDP Trinidad Arm, Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, May 1. The PDP’s political leader has since removed Farley and two others as deputy leaders. File Photo/Jeff K Mayers

Section 31 of the Representation of the People Act excludes the Chief Electoral Officer, Deputy Chief Electoral Officers or Deputy Chief Electoral Officers and any Returning Officer.

This Act, in Section 32, prohibits membership in the THA (and the House of Representatives and municipal corporations) for persons who head certain appointed public bodies, as well as other appointed public officials and members of Defense Forces (listed in the second annex).

Those disqualified are the Chairs of Cocoa Rehabilitation Board (sic), Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board, Board of Film Censors, WASA, TTEC, Industrial Development Corporation (sic), National Housing Authority (sic), Port Authority, Public Transport Service Corporation, and Sugar Mills Workers’ Provident Fund Committee. The RPA Act also blocked any member of the Farm Rents Board, Statutory Authorities Services Board, Public Utilities Board (sic), Rents Assessment Board, and a licensing committee. ‘alcohol.

Newsday understands that many of these organizations no longer exist or have been replaced by other organizations.

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