Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 8th 2014 Contents A5
Friday, August 8, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader
David Abdulah yesterday hinted at future
protests should Government's proposed con-
stitutional changes be passed in Parliament
He said the Constitution (Amendment) Bill,
2014, which will be debate on Monday, is
"fatally flawed" and would leave many citizens
disenfranchised if it was made into law.
Addressing a media conference at the party s
St Joseph Village, San Fernando, yesterday,
Abdulah called on the Congress of the People
(COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar to reject the
bill, saying if passed it would also effectively
bury the COP.
The MSJ, he said, met in emergency session
on Wednesday to discuss the proposed amend-
ments, which would pave the way for a two-
term limit for prime ministers, a right of recall
and a run-off poll if candidates did not receive
at least 50 per cent of the votes in their con-
The party, he said, intended to embark on
a public education campaign next week to
inform citizens about the proposed amend-
ments and how they would affect their rights.
He said the sessions, which would be held
in San Fernando and Port-of-Spain, were the
first step they would take in objection to the
"We do not think the average citizen under-
stands the changes to the provisions of the
"We feel it is our responsibility to educate,
to inform and agitate to take action in defence
to democracy. We are going to take action in
defence of democracy, depending on what
happens in Parliament," Abdulah added.
When asked if further action entailed protest
action, he said: "There could be many different
forms of action. We will announce, at the
appropriate time, what the further action is."
Abdulah said the party had no problem with
the ideas of a two-term limit and the right
of recall but had a difficulty with the mech-
anisms of the process being proposed, which
he described as "nonsense and fatally flawed."
He questioned the timing of the govern-
ment s taking such a significant piece of leg-
islation to Parliament when it was meant to
be on vacation.
"This is not the way one ought to conduct
a democratic process as fundamental as the
"This is not emergency legislation to deal
with a crisis of flooding or any national security
issue that arose unplanned and so on.
"We are talking about amending the Con-
stitution. We are talking about issues about
how MPs are elected, which goes to the root
of the democratic process," Abdulah argued.
Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah, center, addresses the media on the
controversial constitutional reform proposals at the party's San Fernando headquarters yesterday.
Looking on is Akins Vidale, left, and Gregory Fernandez. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
A People's National Movement (PNM)
government will examine constitutional
changes, including having a deputy prime
minister and having wider input for the
election of a president, says PNM leader
Speaking during a media briefing at
Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, yesterday,
Rowley said the PNM s General Council
had approved constitutional issues which
would be dealt with by a new PNM gov-
Matters were examined by PNM s con-
stitutional review team, headed by lady
vice-chairman Camille Robinson-Regis
and including three former PNM attorney
"There are areas which will be strength-
ened and make Parliament more effective
and reduce the prime minister s power
and Cabinet dictatorship," Rowley added.
On the appointment of an acting prime
minister, usually made when the PM is
out of T&T, he said the council wanted
examination of proposals for a deputy
Noting that the election of a president
is currently done via an electoral college,
he said that would be reviewed in favour
of a an extended electoral college with
broader input so that it did not leave the
election of a president only to the party
with the majority in Parliament.
Also to be examined is entrenching the
Cabinet structure and establishment of
portfolios in law and legally limiting the
Cabinet s size. Rowley said that would
reduce the prime minister s power and
eliminate "any capricious offering" of
posts for political purposes.
A smaller Cabinet would also restrict
the number of senators, since he said the
PNM wanted to avoid a situation where
elected MPs were sidelined by senators.
Other suggestions include legislating
for full-time parliamentarians, since Sec-
tion 39 of the Constitution does not indi-
cate whether MPs are full-time or part-
The council also suggested that parlia-
mentary teams should hold the power to
subpoena any person or agency to speak
on national matters or to intervene in
Rowley said his government would also
examine establishing local government
responsibility in the Constitution and for
internal self-government for Tobago.
While the Local Government Ministry
will be removed, the sector would have
more responsibility for state services, he
The PNM will also examine constitu-
tional provisions for campaign finance
reform and having the Caribbean Court
of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court.
All changes would be done with consul-
tation, he added.
Congress of the People (COP) members
who are concerned that Government's run-
off poll proposal might eliminate third parties
in elections will have a chance to air their
views at a National Council meeting on Sun-
COP chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan
said yesterday the party s national executive,
which met on the run-off and other govern-
ment constitutional reform issues on Wednes-
day night, agreed to put the matters before
the party s council.
Seepersad-Bachan said she herself had not
given a view on the controversial run-off poll
issue and would not until council members
had commented fully on it.
COP leader Prakash Ramadhar, head of Gov-
ernment s Constitution reform team, has also
been silent on the legislation.
Yesterday, COP sources said a number of
members who had steadfastly followed the
commission s various consultations were upset
that the run-off poll idea was not aired at
those consultations. (GA)
COP meets on run-off Sunday
MSJ rejects Govt's reform bill
Abdulah took issue with the proposal for a
second ballot or run-off which proposes that a
candidate can only become a member of the
House of Representatives if they obtain more than
50 per cent of the votes cast in a constituency.
If, at the first poll, that majority is not achieved,
a second poll will be held within 15 days between
the top two candidates.
But that, he said, could create "total instability,
uncertainly and insecurity" and would entrench the
two major political parties as the only options,
allowing for voting along racial lines.
He questioned where such a proposal came
from, since it was not recommended in any of the
documents from previous constitutional reform
Abdulah said the proposal removed citizens'
right to vote for the candidate of their choice,
should the candidate be from a third party, such as
He said the COP should take note of that and
state its position on the amendment, suggesting
the party's MPs should reject it outright in
Parliament when the bill went for debate.
"If they have any ounce of integrity left in them
they should vote against this piece of legislation
when it comes to the House on Monday because it
is absolutely opposed to what the COP has
espoused in constitutional reform.
"It (the run-off) was not part of the
recommendations of the committee he
(Ramadhar) chaired. What this will do is to
constitutionally bury the COP," he said.
He said that proposal will also deny people's
constitutional right to form and be a part of a
political party of their choice.
Run-offs are inoperable in T&T's political system,
he said, and were only applicable to countries
where citizens voted directly for the executive,
such as a president.
COP MPS SHOULD REJECT IT
Police officers up to late last night were on
the scene of two murders which were com-
mitted in east and west Trinidad.
Investigators said they took place in Malabar
around 7.30 pm and 8 pm in Dibe, Long Circular.
One of the men, police say, is wanted by the
police for an unspecified offence.
Up to press time officers did not release the
identity of the victims nor the circumstances
of the murders.
The two latest killings have taken the murder
toll to 267. (See Page A7)
Two more murders in Malabar and Dibe
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