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expert Dr Hamid
Ghany says the run-
off poll proposal was
something the Oppo-
sition PNM intro-
duced in its party con-
stitution recently and
it was not an alien
concept to the PNM.
He was among
members of the Consti-
tution Commission who
made recommendations for constitutional reform.
He was responding yesterday to specific questions
on the various proposals the Prime Minister
He said: "I think these measures require a simple
majority and could have been done by any previous
prime minister. I think the question is whether they
had the political will or desire to do it. The term
limits for prime ministers was advocated by the
ONR in 1981 and that debate went on for years.
"Recall of MPs is another issue debated for years
and is nothing new and the run-off aspect isn t
alien, as it was introduced by the PNM and detailed
at a press conference by PNM chairman Franklin
Khan and Ashton Ford at Balisier House."
He said the proposals for a run-off poll and others
could be made with a simple majority, which was
why they could have been done at any time
Ghany noted the measures would empower the
electorate, ensuring it got the MPs who received a
majority of votes rather than ones who don t and
would increase interest in elections and registra-
"There s been great debate on first-past-the-
post systems and proportional representation was
offered as an alternative.
"It s not being put forward here but this is a fine-
tuning of the first-past-the-post system and it s
been embarked upon by major parties. The PNM
introduced it for their party poll but they didn t
use it fully, since their candidates all won by 50 per
cent of the votes in that internal election," he said.
Former public service head Reginald Dumas,
meanwhile, said he agreed with the term limits for
prime ministers, an NAR proposal, and the principle
of right of recall though the latter must be worked
out to prevent abuse of the system
Dumas said: "But I wonder if the run-off poll,
in our system, might not have the effect of elim-
inating third parties and this may not be best for
"In 2007 the COP got many votes but no seats.
In a run-off COP people may not vote, so where s
the voice of the people of COP to be heard in this
"I am unsure this is in the best interest of democ-
racy. It may certainly eliminate third parties and
see coalition politics masquerading as single party
politics. We are reverting to the two-party system
that has bedevilled us all along.
"Also, while the first two ideas were in the PP
manifesto, this is a new proposal and which should
be discussed with the public." (GA)
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
PNM officials, legal team meet on reform bills
not new to PNM
for 05TH AUGUST, 2014
All hands on deck
The Opposition People s National Move-
ment (PNM) went into emergency
response mode yesterday, calling all MPs,
legal advisers and officers to a series of
meetings today to formulate its position
on the Government s constitutional reform
legislation, which will be debated in six
PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi confirmed the
Opposition would hold a series of meetings
from 10 am until tonight to prepare for
Monday s debate of the bills --- one of which
involves the run-off ballot system which
the PNM itself had introduced for its own
internal poll in May.
"The debate is in six days, so it s all hands
on deck to examine the issues and prepare.
We are not panicking. It s all part of good
organisation," Al-Rawi added.
At issue particularly is Government s pro-
posal for a run-off poll in elections, so that
each member of the House of Representa-
tives will only become an MP if he or she
obtains more than 50 per cent of the votes
cast in a constituency.
The Prime Minister, who announced the
measure on Monday, also announced pro-
posals for a two-term limit for prime min-
isters and right of recall for non-performing
MPs. These require a simple majority vote
for passage, she said. Debate begins on Mon-
day morning in Parliament.
While Government s full complement of
MPs was present at Monday s opening of
the parliamentary session, half the 13 Oppo-
sition MPs were absent.
The PNM, which had expected a recess,
later accused Government of breaching Par-
liament s new Standing Orders in convening
sittings next week during the expected
"vacation" period. (See pages A5, A6, A10
Yesterday, Al-Rawi said PNM leader Keith
Rowley called today s meeting with MPs to
get the party s position going.
The party hierarchy is also meeting with
legal advisers and the central executive will
caucus at 5 pm. This will be followed by a
meeting of the general council later in the
The PNM s central executive runs the party
and makes decisions, some of which have to
be ratified by the council, which is the PNM s
highest decision-making body outside of a party
convention and involves representatives of all
Al-Rawi said the PNM would support
measures which the party felt were worth-
while if there was a case for support "but
what must happen is consultation and six
days is not enough time to consider reflec-
tions and questions.
"The party must have consultation but
there seems to be an undue haste by the
Government to push this legislation down
the throats of the public," he added.
Al-Rawi said absent PNM MPs on Mon-
day included Joanne Thomas, who was
admitted to hospital that day; Donna Cox,
who was unwell; Amery Browne, who was
unable to make it; Patricia McIntosh, over-
seas; and Colm Imbert, on a European vaca-
He said Rowley was scheduled to travel
to a New York meeting on August 11 and
PNM whip Marlene McDonald was due to
travel this week. Al-Rawi said he was also
scheduled to go abroad this week.
"Many of our members were scheduled
to travel in the recess period so that s why
we are having an emergency meeting to
confirm who will be required to be here for
the debate, the logistics of getting them
back in T&T and other arrangements.
"Imbert, for instance, is in Europe and
will be unable to return until the night time
of (Monday s) debate, so we have a few days
to get them back home," he added.
PNM San Fernando East MP Patrick
Manning, one of the PNM MPs who attend-
ed Parliament on Monday, will not speak
in the upcoming debate. Nor is he attending
today s meeting, since he has therapy, a
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, right, and Marlene McDonald following Monday's
sitting of the House of Representatives, where Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
proposed constitutional reform changes. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
Al-Rawi said the majority of the country's
senior counsel were all proceeding on vacation
as the courts closed on July 31.
"Among them are the voices in the public
domain who would be serious legal experts on
constitutional reform issues and they may be
going on vacation.
"Therefore, these bills would not receive
fulsome attention concerning the constitutional
ramifications in the short period we have left in
which to deliberate. It's certainly unlikely," he
Al-Rawi said attorneys assisting the PNM,
including Stuart Young and Michael Quamina,
are also due to travel.
But, he said, the party would also be involving
the expertise of former AGs Bridgette
Annisette-George and Glenda Morean, attorney
Barendra Sinanan, Dr Lenny Saith, Martin
Joseph and others.
He commented: "This political manoeuvre by
the Government in August is, to me,
reminiscent of their implementation of the early
proclamation of Section 34, which was also
done in the month of August, before
Independence celebrations, when no one was
Saying the legislation was an "ambush" by
Government, Al-Rawi added: "But we'll be
prepared, with all of today's meetings in the
party, to prosecute the people's business
despite the ambush."
The PNM also had its own constitution
review committee, he said.
Al Rawi added that the PNM's run-off system
was not the same as what Government was
PNM chairman Franklin Khan said the PNM
used the run-off system in its May poll but only
to elect a leader and the system was designed
for electing leaders such as in Latin America.
Al-Rawi said there were questions on
Government's proposals and the PNM didn't
trust the Prime Minister's explanation on the
He added: "You're not comparing apples with
apples (because) we had a closed system. The
run-off is used in other democracies. The
question is if it can be applied to T&T's electoral
"There are ramifications to be considered,
including the fact that this is designed to kill
third parties --- like the COP and ILP --- and it
would entrench the two-party system. So this
isn't the same as our run-off plan.
"Also, consultations by the Constitution
Commission, headed by Prakash Ramadhar,
didn't involve any consultation on this aspect,
so Government must explain the unholy rush to
deal with this.
"We feel the rush to debate this on Monday
and bring it back in the Senate the following
week is to ensure that the people who have
constitutional understanding don't get an
opportunity to speak out against it but we in
the PNM must get the widest possible party
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said the
Government was prepared for Monday's
Dr Hamid Ghany
Party wants more voices
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