Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 28th 2014 Contents A6
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There is no human right to vote in T&T s Con-
stitution, Attorney General Ramlogan says.
He made the comment as he responded in the
Senate to Opposition statements that the runoff
system presented in the Constitution (Amendment)
Bill 2014 may violate the public s freedom to political
Ramlogan, who told the Senate he spent his
birthday on Tuesday participating in the debate,
news which earned him congratulatory remarks
from Opposition and Independent Senators, said
he had got several legal opinions to support that.
He said he was advised that people s rights were
not violated by any of the amendments and that
the right to freedom of political views were unaf-
He added: "We are on good grounds on the law.
"We do not have in our Constitution an enshrined
right to vote as a human right. That is not to say
that the Government doesn t want it, or it is a bad
thing or good thing, it is just a factual recitation
of the law.
"People are saying you are taking away a con-
stitutional right. I am trying to say to you there
is no constitutional right to vote and that has been
pronounced by our courts."
He said he had argued cases as an attorney which
dealt with the right to freedom of political expres-
sion, including a case which argued the right to
vote was protected by the Constitution through
the freedom of political expression.
"I lost the case. I argued that the right to freedom
of political expression must obviously mean express-
ing a political view by vote. They said no and I
lost the case," Ramlogan said.
"The declared law for the Republic of T&T is
that the Constitution does not provide for that,
so when people talk about taking away rights and
the need for a special majority, I hope I am clarifying
that cannot be correct," he added.
A day after he was chastised by Independent Sen-
ator Helen Drayton for his "flip-flop" stance on the
Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2014, Congress of
the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar has lashed
back, saying he was misunderstood.
He has faced public ridicule over the past two weeks
after he voted for the controversial bill when it was
brought to Parliament on August 12, although the party
executive had announced that the voting on the bill
should have been deferred due to public outcry over
the contentious runoff proposal.
During the debate in the Senate on Tuesday, Drayton
criticised Ramadhar for voting with the Government
on the bill, saying he previously had said the runoff
was a poor substitute for constitutional reform but still
voted for it.
But in response yesterday, Ramadhar said Drayton
had missed the point.
He said: "It is unfortunate that a relatively simple
measure such as runoff elections, which is designed
solely to ensure that MPs are elected by a majority of
electors rather than by a minority, has attracted so
much misunderstanding, mischief and misrepresentation,
not necessarily in that order.
"What is more unfortunate is that some persons
who ought to know better have opted to address the
matter on the basis of personalities rather than on the
basis of relevant issues. "As someone who continues
to respect the usually well thought-out and well-artic-
ulated views of Drayton, I was disappointed firstly that
she missed the point when it comes to the runoff pro-
posal and, secondly, having missed the point she elected
to attack me personally as Minister of Legal Affairs and
as chairman of the Constitution Reform Commission."
Noting that Drayton totally misrepresented his state-
ment that runoff elections are poor substitutes for pro-
portional representation, Ramadhar sought to clarify
He said: "My statement was made in the context of
government not having the requisite parliamentary
majority to introduce proportional representation, which
is its preferred option and which is the preferred option
advanced by the Constitution Reform Commission.
"In the absence of such a majority and having regard
to the parliamentary opposition already having
announced its intention not to support proportional
representation, the system of runoff elections was
viewed by the commission (and accepted by the Gov-
ernment as part of its Constitution Amendment Bill)
as the next available alternative.
AG gets counsel on runoff arguments...
Voting not a legal right
Ramlogan also responded to Senator
Helen Drayton's contribution on Tuesday
and criticised her for the use of the term
He defended the right to recall and
runoff provisions, saying if you gave the
people the right to hire their MP you
must give them the corresponding right
to fire their MP.
"That is the very essence of power to
the people. And that is why these
provisions are with us because now an
MP would know that if he concentrates
on those where he gets his support and
his support is a minority support, he
knows now, well you know that may not
be sufficient because there may be a
runoff and he knows that even after that
if he does not properly serve his
constituents he could be liable to a recall.
"Every single constituent, for the first
time in our political history, they will now
have power over their MP that they can
exercise to recall him.
He knows that is a possibility and
whether the right of recall succeeds or
not may not be the only point. The right
of recall has an important psychological
value. It is an important psychological
political weapon in the hands of the
people that they can use to ensure they
get effective representation," he added.
He said even if the recall did not
succeed, if a majority of people signed a
petition it was unlikely that the MP would
survive in future elections.
He said the fears being mentioned by
senators were not being borne out by
"Show me a country where the runoff
has realised the fears you presented. I do
not share the view that the runoff will
result in a low voter turnout but even if it
is, that is their right. They cannot
complain and if they don't like the parties
form their own, it is free," he said.
Responding to Drayton's suggestion of
a bi-partisan committee for due process,
Ramlogan said that was not necessary.
"No bi-partisan committee vote to put
him there. Why are we so afraid to give
power to the people. There is a certain
amount of intellectual elitism in the
Senate. Due process comes from when
the petition comes, you go to the people
and explain to them," he added.
POWER OVER MPS
HOW IT'S DONE
Members of the
board a pirogue to
perform a drug
the Coast Guard's
Prakash hits back at Drayton:
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