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Young blood takes over
After 34-year-old Deputy Chief Secretary Tracey Davidson-Celestine was sworn in by President George Maxwell-Richards at Assembly Legislature Building, Scarborough, Tobago, on Thursday, her predecessor Hilton Sandy appealed for her not to be judged until she starts to perform in office. “Judge people by when they start performing in office,” Sandy told the Sunday Guardian.
Meanwhile, THA Secretary Orville London maintained her “selection is not tokenism.” Before delving into the onerous task of Tobago development, Davidson-Celestine expressed optimism about providing additional employment opportunities for youth and strengthening Tobago’s tourism product.
Davidson-Celestine, who has been in politics for the last eight years, retained the Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside seat in Monday’s THA election. Over the years she has held positions of councillor, assistant secretary, responsibility for Youth Affairs and Sport, and secretary of Community Development and Culture.
Asked about her appointment on Friday, both political stalwarts were confident she would do her best to improve the quality of life for Tobagonians. Sandy, who is now secretary of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, insisted he had no problem with her appointment.
“It’s no big thing as far as I am concerned. She performed in culture and community and she handled Best Village and major cultural programmes. If you judge her against her cultural background, you would see she would bring something to tourism. Her cultural knowledge would be an asset.”
‘She has distinguished herself’
Responding to rumours he had been removed because of the infamous “Calcutta ship” remark, Sandy said the aim was to introduce young blood into the party. He was among the 12 successful candidates who swept the PNM to victory on Monday:
“We (London) are aged people. And we are looking to get out of politics. We have young people supporting PNM. It’s about walking the talk.” While Sandy said a successor was discussed before the THA election, London said there was talk about “transition” and “the changing face of the PNM.”
To further emphasise that her appointment was not “tokenism,” London made reference to her competence and eight years experience in the Assembly. “She has distinguished herself in the geographical area which is more than 25 per cent and spans seven distinct communities. It takes a certain kind of commitment to be servicing an area that is that huge.”
London paid kudos to her tenacity and academic track record in community life and culture. He also commended her contribution to the development of the youth as assistant secretary for Youth Affairs and Sport. He said, “We are signalling the changing face of the PNM. We want to incorporate that blend of youth and experience. We want to create an image where the more experienced members would be there to give guidance.”
Providing education, training
Still basking in the afterglow of having received her instruments of appointment on Friday, Davidson-Celestine said, “I am very humbled. I am very excited. I want to thank London for the opportunity and the confidence he has reposed in me. I also want to thank my campaign team manager former acting commissioner of police Tobago Division Allan Crooks for his assistance.”
London has assigned her the portfolio of Tourism and Transportation, but she would be seeking to provide social mobility and create employment opportunities for Tobago youth. She said, “It’s about education and training and taking our people to the next level. We can make the transition with education and training and empowering them.”
Among the interventions would be the provision of social programmes to foster the educational development of young people.
“The THA has some programmes that are readily available like the YESS programme. It is about providing young people with jobs and ensuring they get the experience. We have a number of social programmes and different sports programmes. It is just not about academic training. But the type of training that you would put in place to churn out more sportsmen.”
‘More authority for Tobago’
Asked about tertiary education, she said, “The THA will continue to push for a university. We have Costaatt, Adventist University and the Continuing Studies programme at UTT. So there are quite a number of academic opportunities for young people.”
Special emphasis would be placed on developing nature trails, getting the diaspora involved in developing Tobago and coordinating community tourism in areas like Speyside and Bloody Bay. It is in keeping with her mandate to develop a quality tourism product. Zeroing on the issue of autonomy for Tobago, she said she supported self-governance.
“I’ve been part of the process. I feel Tobago should have more authority to make its decisions. We don’t have any authority to make major laws and not much authority over the airport. We have a situation where the airport needs to be upgraded and there are some services that have to be properly coordinated. We need to have control over them as well, and things like Town and Country, WASA and licences.”
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