Categorized | Local, News, Regional

Legislators begin debating controversial amendment to Constitution

“Electorate ambushed” says Warner

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar Monday said government legislators would be allowed to

PM Kamla Persad Bissessar in Parliament

PM Kamla Persad Bissessar in Parliament

vote “their conscience” as debate began here on the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill that will provide a for a two-term limit for prime ministers among other measures.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar insisted that the legislation, which needs a simple majority to become law, was aimed at empowering the population and chided opposition legislators for seeking to spread fear among the population. Hundreds of supporters of both the government and opposition gathered outside the Parliament building under the watchful eyes of a contingent of armed police officers.

The bill provides for the recall of legislators and for a run off poll in the event that a candidate fails to win a majority 50 per cent of the votes case during a general election.

But Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley told Parliament that the government was seeking to hoodwink the country and instead called for free general election.

“Call the election and ask the people what they want,” he said, in reference to Prime Minister Persad Bissessar’s claim that the new measures were intended to give the population more power.

“You are saying it is for the people…we are saying to you ask them what they want, call an election,” he said, reminding that the government had prior to the public consultations on the constitution had promised “political consensus on the new constitutional formula before the draft could proceed”.

But he said, instead, the opposition as well as some members of the coalition government were “ambushed” when they turned up last Monday for the sitting of Parliament even though the legislative chamber was supposed to have been in recess for the annual holidays.

“Half of the cabinet here, heard it for the first time last Monday,” he said.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar told legislators that she was “relaxing the doctrine of collective responsibility” governing her Cabinet so as to ensure that no government legislator is “bound by their conscience.

“Vote according to your conscience,” she said, adding when the final vote is to be taken “I will call for a division so each member can register their vote according to their conscience”.

The announcement by the head of the coalition government comes after the Congress of the People (COP), the second biggest party in the four-member coalition had indicated that while it would support the start of the debate on the issue, it wanted the government to delay the final vote pending more public discussions.

COP leader Praskash Ramahdar, who chaired the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) and is yet to speak in the debate, told reporters Sunday that his party had discussed the issue  and “voted that there should be a delay between tomorrow (today) and the vote, the ultimate vote (on the bill)”.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that her administration “firmly believes in putting more powers in the hand of the people” adding that the new measures were underpinned by two core principles including the fact that power “should be concentrated in the population and not in the politicians”.

The prime minister disregarded suggestions that her coalition could be defeated in the next general election, saying “I have no fear of what the electorate will do.

“For those who are writing…columns, some of whom have never had a good word to say about this government, I want to say these are promises we made and I take comfort from the fact they were policies endorsed in the manifesto,” she said.

She reminded legislators that the next general election is constitutionally due in September next year , adding “I will run the term of the government within the law”.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said it was “interesting” that the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) was objecting strongly to the new amendments to the Constitution when within their own party, they were putting such measures, including a term limit, the right to recall, in their own Constitution.

“She ridiculed the Opposition Leader’s call for the population to “rise up” against the measures, saying “I can’t understand how people say having elections is a dictatorship,”  in reference to the run-off polls, telling legislators “ a dictatorship comes when you do not have elections”.

The prime minister also disagreed with suggestions that the run-offs would prove to be detrimental to third political parties in the country, saying that empirical evidence does not support that view.

But Rowley told Parliament that the “real reason” behind the government’s move now was to ensure that it remains in power following the 2015 general election.

He read a document in which he quoted the prime minister as saying that her ruling United National Congress (UNC) would not be victorious in a three-way fight involving the PNM.

Rowley recalled the efforts by the coalition government in Britain soon after coming to power in 2010 to seek to change the way in which legislators were elected.

He said the matter was soundly defeated in a referendum, adding “today I ask the people of Trinidad and Tobago to do like the people of Britain and reject these proposals”.

Rowley said he was also disturbed that government ministers and spokespersons would launch a vicious attack on prominent people in the society including a member of the Constitutional reform Commission and a former legislator and prominent attorney who dared to provide opposing views to the government on the legislation.

Rowley said he had been to many funerals in the past and that the proposed legislation is “the government halleluiah”.

The debate is continuing in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament.

 

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

“Electorate ambushed” says Warner

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar Monday said government legislators would be allowed to

PM Kamla Persad Bissessar in Parliament

PM Kamla Persad Bissessar in Parliament

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vote “their conscience” as debate began here on the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill that will provide a for a two-term limit for prime ministers among other measures.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar insisted that the legislation, which needs a simple majority to become law, was aimed at empowering the population and chided opposition legislators for seeking to spread fear among the population. Hundreds of supporters of both the government and opposition gathered outside the Parliament building under the watchful eyes of a contingent of armed police officers.

The bill provides for the recall of legislators and for a run off poll in the event that a candidate fails to win a majority 50 per cent of the votes case during a general election.

But Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley told Parliament that the government was seeking to hoodwink the country and instead called for free general election.

“Call the election and ask the people what they want,” he said, in reference to Prime Minister Persad Bissessar’s claim that the new measures were intended to give the population more power.

“You are saying it is for the people…we are saying to you ask them what they want, call an election,” he said, reminding that the government had prior to the public consultations on the constitution had promised “political consensus on the new constitutional formula before the draft could proceed”.

But he said, instead, the opposition as well as some members of the coalition government were “ambushed” when they turned up last Monday for the sitting of Parliament even though the legislative chamber was supposed to have been in recess for the annual holidays.

“Half of the cabinet here, heard it for the first time last Monday,” he said.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar told legislators that she was “relaxing the doctrine of collective responsibility” governing her Cabinet so as to ensure that no government legislator is “bound by their conscience.

“Vote according to your conscience,” she said, adding when the final vote is to be taken “I will call for a division so each member can register their vote according to their conscience”.

The announcement by the head of the coalition government comes after the Congress of the People (COP), the second biggest party in the four-member coalition had indicated that while it would support the start of the debate on the issue, it wanted the government to delay the final vote pending more public discussions.

COP leader Praskash Ramahdar, who chaired the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) and is yet to speak in the debate, told reporters Sunday that his party had discussed the issue  and “voted that there should be a delay between tomorrow (today) and the vote, the ultimate vote (on the bill)”.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that her administration “firmly believes in putting more powers in the hand of the people” adding that the new measures were underpinned by two core principles including the fact that power “should be concentrated in the population and not in the politicians”.

The prime minister disregarded suggestions that her coalition could be defeated in the next general election, saying “I have no fear of what the electorate will do.

“For those who are writing…columns, some of whom have never had a good word to say about this government, I want to say these are promises we made and I take comfort from the fact they were policies endorsed in the manifesto,” she said.

She reminded legislators that the next general election is constitutionally due in September next year , adding “I will run the term of the government within the law”.

Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said it was “interesting” that the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) was objecting strongly to the new amendments to the Constitution when within their own party, they were putting such measures, including a term limit, the right to recall, in their own Constitution.

“She ridiculed the Opposition Leader’s call for the population to “rise up” against the measures, saying “I can’t understand how people say having elections is a dictatorship,”  in reference to the run-off polls, telling legislators “ a dictatorship comes when you do not have elections”.

The prime minister also disagreed with suggestions that the run-offs would prove to be detrimental to third political parties in the country, saying that empirical evidence does not support that view.

But Rowley told Parliament that the “real reason” behind the government’s move now was to ensure that it remains in power following the 2015 general election.

He read a document in which he quoted the prime minister as saying that her ruling United National Congress (UNC) would not be victorious in a three-way fight involving the PNM.

Rowley recalled the efforts by the coalition government in Britain soon after coming to power in 2010 to seek to change the way in which legislators were elected.

He said the matter was soundly defeated in a referendum, adding “today I ask the people of Trinidad and Tobago to do like the people of Britain and reject these proposals”.

Rowley said he was also disturbed that government ministers and spokespersons would launch a vicious attack on prominent people in the society including a member of the Constitutional reform Commission and a former legislator and prominent attorney who dared to provide opposing views to the government on the legislation.

Rowley said he had been to many funerals in the past and that the proposed legislation is “the government halleluiah”.

The debate is continuing in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament.