Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 3rd 2013 Contents A6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt .Saturday, August 3, 2013
While President Anthony Car-
mona had full power to replace
four Independent senators before
their term expired, the action has
breached precedent and tradition-
This was the view of Independ-
ent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan,
as he responded to questions from
the media at the ceremonial open-
ing of Parliament yesterday.
"It has breached the precedent,
custom and practice, which has
been that Independent senators
would serve the parliamentary
term," he told the T&T Guardian.
Ramkhelawan noted, however,
that the President s action was
within his powers under the Con-
"It is not outside of his remit,
but he has changed the custom
and practice. The appointment of
independent senators is within the
discretion and powers of the Pres-
ident in accordance with the Con-
The new Independent Senators
were sworn in at the ceremonial
opening of Parliament yesterday.
•Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir, an
•Hugh Russell Ian Roach, inter-
•Anthony Vieira, intellectual
•Daniel Small, former public
The four replaced Prof Harold
Ramkissoon, Dr James Armstrong,
Corinne Baptiste-McKnight and
Dr Lennox Bernard.
Ramkhelewan said the Office of
the President operates on three
•he has full discretion in
appointing independent senators
•he can make appointments by
consultation, in most cases with
the leader of the Opposition and
the prime minister, many times in
the appointment of commissions
•he supports decisions made by
the executive, Cabinet and has very
little use of his own discretion
except when a question arises
about the legality of the decision
Leader of Opposition Business
in the Senate Penelope Beckles said
the Constitution is very clear about
the President having the sole and
independent right to determine
whom he selects as an independent
senator. However, she was not
happy with the gender composition
of the Senate.
"There are nine independent
senators and there are eight men
and one woman. The impression
that is created is that there is only
one woman at this time that meets
the criteria and qualifications.
"But the Constitution gives the
President the absolute power in
terms of selecting, so he exercised
his discretion as he saw fit."
Beckles said she was happy Car-
mona raised the issue of the long
hours MPs have to spend debating
bills in Parliament, something she
had repeatedly complained about.
She said it was a matter that must
be addressed, since not only MPs
but parliamentary staffers are also
She said it was very unfair to
them, as some of the staff, such
as the Hansard staff, are specialists
and have to work from one shift
almost straight to another.
"The persons who provide us
with our refreshments and food
are the same persons as well."
She said she supported the Pres-
ident s call for greater co-operation
between the Government and the
Opposition, but said in the case of
the recent Defence Bill, for instance,
the Government collaborated only
with the independent senators.
"They didn t collaborate with
us. In critical pieces of legislation,
collaboration needs to start before
we even come to Parliament. But
there is a lack of trust."
Government Whip in the Senate
Ganga Singh also said President
Carmona s replacement of the four
Independent was within his dis-
"He was saying, basically, Look,
this is in my domain and there will
not be recycling on my part, some
returnables but no recycling. It was a
matter within his discretion and I look
forward to their contribution."
Singh said Carmona s call for greater
bipartisanship and co-operation
between the Government and the oppo-
sition from the President also resonated
well with him.
He said some of Carmona s sugges-
tions, however, would require a change
in the Standing Orders, such as changing
the hours MPs work in Parliament.
"It is not so simple. You can only
have less time in the Senate if members
try not to repeat each other. But there
is significant leeway on the part of the
presiding officer in allowing them to
speak on the same viewpoint all the
"How do you curtail that? It is a mat-
ter within the discretion of the president
(of the Senate).
"But in democracy, you ought not to
curtail speaking time."
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisses-
sar says President Anthony Carmona s
maiden address was "insightful and
Speaking in Parliament during the clos-
ing stages of yesterday s ceremonial open-
ing, the Prime Minister said, "He reminded
us of our duties and responsibilities to
the people and challenged us to truly advo-
cate for the people."
The PM said the Government was oper-
ating under the watchful gaze of a dis-
cerning and demanding public.
"We are representatives of the people
and we re here to deal with the people s
business. We accept our responsibilities
as servants of the people."
In keeping with that, she said, Govern-
ment s legislative agenda for the new ses-
sion includes measures to deal with crime.
She said while lower levels of crimes were
reported, "We feel we could do more."
Noting rival gang shoot-outs in Port-
of-Spain last week, the PM said the anti-
gang legislation had to be enforced and
she had instructed the Attorney General
to find ways to deal with the crime prob-
The PM also said road safety must be
addressed, pointing out that drivers were
still speaking on cell phones while driving
and speeding was going unpunished.
"Many law-breakers, too many young
people are dying from speeding or too
much alcohol while driving. I ve asked
the National Security and Transport Min-
isters to deal with this," she said.
The Government will implement
speed-trap cameras, Persad-Bissessar
Healthcare will also be stepped up via
The PM said constitutional reform as
well as the other legislative issues will be
dealt with before the next general elec-
Also headed for the Parliament is public
procurement law, plus legislation to deal
with jury misconduct and interference.
"The coming session is expected to be
hectic," she added.
The Government and Opposition also
delivered Emancipation and Eid messages
in which Opposition leader Dr Keith Row-
ley called for "all of us" to observe Eman-
PM: Carmona's speech
Senators uneasy with break in tradition
Members of the T&T Regiment at the ceremonial opening of Parliament parade on Wrightson Road,
Port-of-Spain, in front the Waterfront Centre yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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