History of the Island

Tobago was occupied by the Amerindian group the Caribs. When Columbus sighted the island, he called it Bella Forma. Its present name Tobago is a corruption of the word tobacco which the natives grew on the island. The island remained virtually unknown to the Europeans until the Dutch merchants established colonies on the island in 1632.

Tobago was identified as a valuable strategic harbour and a source of fertile soil and a very highly regarded prize possession by all of its colonial occupiers. In 1791, over 90% of Tobago’s 15,000 residents were African slaves, most of whom worked on the many sugar plantations across the island.

Tobago changed hands 33 times among the Spanish, the Dutch, the French and the British. The island was captured by Britain in 1803 and was finally ceded to the British in 1814 by the Treaty of Paris .The British Monarchy which had had control of the neighbouring island of Trinidad since 1797, incorporated the two islands into one state in 1888. This was done in an effort to secure more financial stability for Tobago, primarily due to the decline of sugar production on the island.

In 1962 after a lot of civil unrest and demonstrations the country was able to acquire its independence on 31st August. Fourteen years after attaining independence status, the twin island state was able to acquire republic status and elect its own President to replace the Queen.

In the country’s current political system, the central government which is located in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which allocates funds that will be distributed to the island of Tobago for it’s daily operations in the annual budget for the country. Tobago has its own governing body called the Tobago House of Assembly which is an elected body that is given the responsibility to manage the day to day operations on the island.


Tobago House of Assembly

The Tobago House of Assembly was created and first met in 1768 in George Town, now called Studley Park, which was the designated capital of the island at the time.
By the following year, 1769, the capital of the island was moved to Scarborough and so were the offices of the thirteen (13) member elected House of Assembly (Lower House) as well as the appointed Legislative Council (Upper House).
In 1877, representative government was abolished with the imposition of Crown Colony administration on the island.

Act No. 37 of 1980:

The present Tobago House of Assembly was established by Act No. 37 of 1980, assented to on September 23rd, 1980, for the purpose of "making better provision for the administration of the island of Tobago and for matters therewith".
This Act was incorporated into the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago as Chap. 25:03.
The Assembly comprised twelve (12) elected Assembly-men and three (3) nominated Councillors, and was headed by a Chairman chosen from among its members.

Tobago House of Assembly Standing Orders, 1990:

These Standing Orders constituted the guidelines for the conduct of the business of the Assembly, in accordance with the provisions of the Tobago House of Assembly Act, 1980.

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