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Friday, August 29, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
for 28TH AUGUST, 2014
After three days of intense debate inside and
outside of Parliament, the Constitution (Amend-
ment) Bill was sent to the committee stage to
allow senators to make amendments but Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says there will
be more changes to come to the electoral process.
Persad-Bissessar, who had been deeply involved
in the drafting of the bill, said another bill for
fixed election dates was being considered by Cab-
She also said the Government was still looking
at proportional representation.
In an hour-long wrap-up of the bill, which pro-
poses fixed election dates, term limits for prime
ministers, the right to recall non-performing MPs
and a runoff ballot system, Persad-Bissessar praised
Independent senators for their input.
She also condemned the Opposition s criticisms,
saying they failed to make any suggestions and
had taken a decision to vote against even before
the bill was read.
However, she assured there was no need to fear
the bill as it was the people who would decide
who governed the country.
She said: "I thank you members of the Inde-
pendent bench because whilst it is that the Oppo-
sition did not come out with a single idea or pro-
posals as to the way forward, indeed it was as Mr
(Rennie) Dumas said in his article that they did
not propose any way forward, any suggestions,
apart from condemnation.
"I was very happy that from the Independent
bench that there were suggestions coming forward
from several of them.
"I think the comment made by Senator (David)
Small that we are going into uncharted waters,
that is so totally true. The very reasoned comment
came from Senator (Anthony) Vieira.
"Honourable Senator (Dhanayshar) Mahabir
came up with a very interesting session, which
we certainly would give consideration to at the
"Honourable Senator Mr (Victor) Wheeler has
his own concerns and he has spoken from a Tobago
perspective and the perspectives of his patients.
"He said he has been speaking with his patients
and they told him to do the right thing. Honourable
Senator as your conscience dictates, I am sure you
will do the right thing."
Persad-Bissessar took offence to Roach s call
for an early election, saying she had never heard
an Independent senator making such a call in her
26 years as a politician. She assured the elections
would be called when they are due and announced
that the proposed fixed election dates were before
"No reasonable, fair-minded citizens can con-
ceive that the vote of an Independent senator
caused a coup in T&T. You see that is a subliminal
message to create fear in the minds of the public.
I doubt Independent senators here will be so
jumbied by such a comment."
More reform to
come, says PM
Independent senators consult each other during the committee stage of the debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 on
Thursday night, at Parliament, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: MICHEAL BRUCE
The controversial Constitu-
tion (Amendment) Bill 2014
was passed in the Senate last
night with the support of Inde-
pendent Senators Dhanayshar
Mahabir, Anthony Vieira and
After almost three days of
heated debate, the bill was
passed at 11.09 pm with a total
of 18 senators voting for it and
12 against it.
All the Opposition Senators
present and six independents
voted against the bill.
However, the bill received the
three Independents votes only
after Prime Minister Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar agreed to accept
an amendment to the contro-
versial runoff clause put forward
Mahabir proposed that a third
place candidate in an election,
who gains 25 per cent of the
votes and who is within a margin
of not less than five percentage
points of the second place can-
didate, also be allowed to contest
the runoff election.
He said this triage system will
give all parties a fairer chance
in an election and allow the third
parties a chance.
Initially, the Government had
proposed that only the top two
candidates would contest the
runoff if neither of them gained
at least 50 per cent of the votes.
But many argued that this would
kill off third parties.
As it turns out, however, in
the runoff election as proposed
by Mahabir, the Government
also agreed to waive the 50 per
cent winning margin for the
three candidates. This means
the winner of the runoff could
win the seat without gaining at
least 50 per cent or more of the
Persad-Bissessar also accepted
Balgobin s proposal to recall a
non-performing MP after two
and a half years instead of three.
The PM also accepted an
amendment proposed by Small
that people wishing to recall
MPs must get the support of 20
per cent of the voters in a con-
stituency to apply for a petition.
The original clause had a 10 per
Small, supported by his col-
leagues, said this would avoid
There was heated debate on
the controversial bill during the
committee stage, after all the
remaining Senators had earlier
made their contributions.
During discussions in the
committee stage, PNM senators
maintained a non-supportive
stance, expressing their complete
rejection of the bill because of
the fact that there was no con-
sultation on the runoff aspect.
During the recall amendment
discussion, PNM Senator Faris
al-Rawi wanted to know where
the 20 per cent figure came from
and what did the consultations
say about it.
Small replied that he didn t
just pluck the 20 per cent out
of the air. He said after discus-
sions with an international recall
expert, he concluded that 20 per
cent, which could mean 5,000
or 6,000 voters in T&T, was
Bill passed after
18 for, 12 against
Opposition senators Faris al Rawi and Fitzgerald Hinds at
yesterday's Senate sitting. PHOTO: MARYANN AUGUSTE
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