Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 3rd 2013 Contents Indeed, I can think immediately of
two areas in which such collaboration
might be considered both feasible and
CCJ should be final
Court of Appeal
I refer first to the Caribbean Court of
Justice (CCJ), which is located in the
heart of Port-of-Spain.
We currently have legislation that gives
jurisdiction to the International Criminal
Court (ICC), to the ad-hoc International
Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Yet we have none that recognises the
final appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.
Why can t we start believing in our-
selves and our competencies? Let there
be a vote of conscience, by secret ballot,
on whether it becomes the final Court
of Appeal or, if as parliamentarians you
lack the confidence to make that change,
place it before the electorate by way of
public referendum on the ballot paper.
The upcoming local government elec-
tions, in two months time, afford an
ideal opportunity for doing this. We must
no longer pussyfoot on the matter.
The second issue, election campaign
financing, is a veritable juggernaut that
results in financiers arrogating political
power unto themselves and thereby
undermining the system of governance.
Curiously, when political parties are in
opposition they call for transparency in
campaign financing; yet when in the
seat of power they conveniently neglect
to address the issue.
We must really get serious. The time
has come when we must bite the bullet
of campaign-financing reform and intro-
duce appropriate measures for disclosure,
reporting and enforcement laws to
ensure transparency and accountability
in the management of the country s elec-
This will certainly build citizen con-
fidence and enhance our system of dem-
ocratic governance. The need for legis-
lation creating a contractor general to
address the issue of tendering procedures
must be considered.
Deal with corruption
Additionally, for many years, there
have been allegations of profligate enrich-
ment by persons in authority. There have
been complaints and observations for
just as many years that the asset base
of politicians is inconsistent with their
income and tax returns and there has
been a hue and cry for the intervention
of the Integrity Commission or the Fraud
Why are we taking such a divergent
route when we can wake up that sleeping
giant called the Board of Inland Revenue?
Rise from your slumber. Do what you
are empowered to do.
The empire of mafia boss Al Capone
was destroyed by his conviction of the
crime of tax evasion. Ever since I worked
at the Office of the Director of Public
Prosecutions, this has been my clarion
cry to persons in authority, throughout
The rejoinder from those in authority
was a jaundiced eye in my direction and
Yet crime continues to be the scourge
of our society. If ever there was a need
to co-operate and engage in realistic
bipartisan methods, the time is now. For
far too long, we have addressed the issue
of crime with a focus on containment
and not from a more holistic perspective.
Legislation in the Parliament appears
to deal, figuratively, with the bolted horse
and not the horse in the stable. For
instance, laws addressing parental
responsibility must be considered to
ensure that the child or the juvenile does
not become a criminal because of the
Change needed in Parliament
Ladies and gentlemen:
As I end this appeal for co-operation,
I would also add that while meetings
between the President and the Prime
Minister may be regarded by some as a
mere exercise in formal reporting, they
do provide an opportunity for the Gov-
ernment to hear the views of the non-
aligned in the decision-making process.
I now turn my attention to the timing
of presentations and the influence it
exercises on the content of the parlia-
What advantage is there in having
issues debated at two and three o clock
in the morning? How does this compare
with the disadvantage of a severely
reduced complement of representatives,
coupled with the obvious exhaustion of
those who have managed or have been
obliged to stay the course?
Does this really augur well for the
quality of parliamentary contributions?
Should major decisions, in this the high-
est law-making body in the land, be
made when the decision-makers are
often, barely awake? Would it not be
preferable to start parliamentary sessions
earlier? It is highly unproductive to begin
sessions at 1.30 pm subject to the vagaries
of a heavy lunch and oppressive humidity.
As Head of the Parliament, I strongly
suggest that Parliament begin at 8 am,
as we all do, to deal more efficiently and
effectively with the nation s business.
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More in your Sunday Guardian
Carmona lays down his law
In keeping with tradition, President Anthony Car-
mona yesterday delivered the feature address at the
ceremonial opening of the Fourth Session of the
This is the first part of his presentation:
Good afternoon to all.
The ceremonial opening of the Fourth Session of
the Tenth Parliament of the Republic of T&T affords
me, as head of the Parliament, the opportunity to share
with you, Honourable Members, issues vital in realising
the vision of good governance to which we must all
As a parliamentary democracy, the Parliament is the
vehicle by which we, the citizens, govern ourselves,
through both elected and unelected representatives. It
is in this vein that I wish to draw attention to the
importance of effective co-operation and the inter-
dependence of the various arms of Parliament: the
President, the Senate and the House of Representa-
Honourable Members of Parliament, ladies and gen-
It has been suggested that, given the power exercised
by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in the West-
minster model, "a more accurate contemporary descrip-
tion of parliamentary government might well be Cabinet
or prime ministerial government. "
And yet the philosophy that informs the Westminster
model of government and which has provided the basis
for our own political institutions and norms reflects
the premise, according to Gerald Schmitz, 1998, The
Opposition in a Parliamentary System: "a delicate bal-
ance must be maintained between permitting elected
governments to govern and legislate effectively, and
ensuring that power is exercised with care and respect
for minorities and dissenting views."
The term "delicate balance" is significant.
My predecessor, President George Maxwell Richards,
has highlighted the fact that the government is account-
able to the Parliament and that "oversight of the gov-
ernment on behalf of the public is Parliament s role
and not a role only for the Opposition."
Now, it is the proper business and duty of an Oppo-
sition to persuade the people that the approaches and
policies that it advocates constitute an improvement
on what is being proposed by the government of the
day. But, by devoting the required time and care to
scrutinising legislation proposed by the Government
and by offering constructive informed criticism, not
only the Opposition, but all parliamentarians may be
expected to co-operate in holding the Government
accountable, obliging it "to defend and justify its policies
and administrative decisions" and to reconsider, even
amend proposals so that they are more in keeping with
what may be perceived as the general good. Timely
receipt of policy documents and draft bills is an imper-
ative to facilitate both scrutiny and the counter-proposals
of all parliamentarians.
As the engine room for national political debate,
Parliament, then, must be about "the people s business"
not "the party s business."
In other words, as leaders and lawmakers, parlia-
mentarians of differing political persuasions are still
expected to co-operate on matters that promote the
development, security and uplifting of the society.
Once a "delicate balance" is struck, all parliamentarians
may be seen to be co-operating, even collaborating to
ensure that bills passed are in the wider public interest.
President Anthony Carmona addresses MPs yesterday. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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