Caribbean island of Tobago starts road towards internal self-government

The government of Trinidad and Tobago accepts to examine consitutional reform on enlarged autonomy · Tobagonian parties demand legislative, fiscal powers · 2010 reports says 75% of Tobago islanders support full internal self-government

The Americas could soon see the rise of another self-governing country as the Caribbean island of Tobago is heading for talks with the government of Trinidad and Tobago on enlarged autonomy. Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persada-Bissessar announced a team will be set up in order to examinate a constitutional amendment on the enlargement of Tobago's autonomy.

Trinidad and Tobago is an independent state since 1962. It is made up of two major islands. Trinidad, in the south, is the largest and most populous one (1,267,000 inhabitants). Its population is of Indian (37%), African (32%) and mixed origin (23%). Tobago, in the north, is smaller and less populated (61,000 inhabitants). Its inhabitants are mostly of African origin (85%).

Since 1980, Tobago has had limited autonomy and and own assembly with executive powers. But the current president of Tobago, Orville London, demands full internal self-government for the island. Representatives of the island's three main parties will be included in the Tobagonian delegation that will negotiate with the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

London complains that the government of Trinidad and Tobago has been postponing this issue for months. According to London, full internal self-government is critical to the aspirations of the people of Tobago.

The Tobagonian leader also says he is not seeking independence.

A 2010 report concluded that 75% of the population of Tobago want full internal self-government.

Ability to pass laws and collect all taxes

The three Tobagonian political parties believe the island's assembly should have the power to pass laws -now it can propose legislation, but it must be passed by the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. The parties also want Tobago to implement its own fiscal policy, including the collection of taxes. They also argue Tobago should have control over its own resources "on land, air and sea."