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At a press conference
yesterday, Attorney Gen-
eral Anand Ramlogan
said it was a matter of
public record that Hodge
was a supporter of former
COP leader Winston
Dookeran, part of COP
and had appeared on the
platform in support of
Dookeran during an
internal party election
years ago. (See page A5)
Ramlogan also said he didn t know if there was
any merit to the claim that her stance was "a hang-
over from the internal election campaign that did
not go too well for the Dookeran faction as opposed
to the Ramadhar faction."
Yesterday, however, Dookeran said Ramlogan s
remark was "...a triviality."
Dookeran declined comment on Hodge s state-
ments. He was also mum on whether he supported
the runoff poll proposal and if he would speak in
Monday s debate of the bills.
Seepersad-Bachan, however, defended Hodge
against the AG s statement.
"He should refrain from attacking the professional
integrity of others," she said.
Seepersad-Bachan continued, "I find him out of
place and out of line in even referring to the internal
COP elections. This is about T&T s future and not
any internal election. I find the AG way out of line.
"In fact the COP National Executive has been
unanimous in the view that members needed to
discuss the issue. We need to ascertain members
views, we believe in consultation."
She said the runoff poll proposal will be discussed
by COP s National Council tomorrow and she had
no comment on her position currently. Nor did she
say if she would speak in Monday s debate.
The Guardian confirmed that on Thursday cabinet
members held a special meeting on the legislation,
including the runoff poll issue and that concerns
were raised by several members, including some
who felt that the legislation should not be debated
in Parliament on Monday. It is understood several
felt the public needed to properly understand what
the runoff poll entailed, its consequences for parties
and pros and cons.
It was also confirmed that concerns had been
raised within the Cabinet since the runoff matter
was first presented several weeks ago.
Sources said the issue was first brought up late
last month. It then arose before the Finance and
General Purposes sub-committee of Cabinet around
July 28. The runoff proposal and other aspects went
to Cabinet on July 31 when members of Cabinet
who had been out of T&T were back in the country,
At that meeting at the San Fernando Teaching
Hospital, concerns on the runoff poll were raised
by several people, they added. However, the leg-
islation was still announced in Parliament five days
Saturday, August 9, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Concerns raised in cabinet on reform bill
Amid confirmation that some Congress
of the People (COP) MPs have raised con-
cerns in Cabinet about Government s runoff
poll proposal, COP MP Carolyn Seeper-
sad-Bachan yesterday rebuked certain
remarks by Attorney General Anand Ram-
logan about Constitutional Reform Com-
mission member Dr Merle Hodge s views
on the issue.
Information reaching T&T Guardian is
that concerns on the proposed runoff poll
were raised in Cabinet weeks ago - ahead
of announcement of the plan in Parliament
on Monday - and up to Thursday also.
Hodge was part of the CRC which made
constitutional reform recommendations,
holding public consultations since last year.
A report was submitted in December 2013
and an addendum to the report on July 18.
(See pages A10, A11 and A12)
The CRC, headed by COP leader Prakash
Ramadhar, also included Madam Justice
Amrika Tiwary-Reddy, Justice Sebastian
Ventour, Dr. Hamid Ghany and Tobagonian
business entrepreneur Carlos Dillon.
In Monday s address to Parliament on the
constitutional reform proposals, Prime Min-
ister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said matters
for CRC consideration included limitations
on terms of service by the prime minister,
a right of recall in respect of non-performing
Parliamentary representatives, "respecting
the voices of the minorities whilst giving
effect to the will of the majority, making
every vote count" and also for provision for
fixed dates for general elections.
Persad-Bissessar on Monday also
announced proposed legislation, to be debat-
ed in Parliament Monday, concerning two-
term limits for prime ministers, right of recall
for MPs and the runoff poll system to apply
where candidates received less than 50 per
cent of votes cast.
The issue triggered negative feedback from
various quarters, including the Opposition.
Some quarters of the public have argued
that the runoff pool proposal will in fact
further entrench a two-party system and
kill off the chances of small parties like the
Independent Liberal Party (ILP), Movement
for Social Justice (MSJ) and even the COP.
In a letter to the media Thursday night,
Hodge said the runoff proposal was in not
in the PP s manifesto, or in main constitu-
tional reform consultations around T&T, or
the Commission s report. (See Hodge s full
statement on page A29)
Disassociating herself from the particular
proposal, Hodge added, "What the current
discussion proves is that before it is taken
to the final stage in Parliament, this Bill
needs more and deeper scrutiny by the pub-
lic, nationwide, over a longer period than
Yesterday, CRC member Dillon also echoed
the call to Government to hold off on debate.
PM still goes ahead
Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC)
member Carlos Dillon has become the
second member of the body calling on
Government to hold its hand on the
Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014.
In a statement yesterday, Dillon said as a
member of the commission, whose remit
was to "co-ordinate the consultation
sessions" throughout the country and to
submit a report, he took responsibility for
the report, which was subsequently put out
for public comment.
Dillon added, "In my view, the main
concerns of the citizenry at this time include
the right of recall of an MP, the
methodology to be used for putting
proportional representation into effect and
the timing of bringing the bill to Parliament.
"The right of recall of an MP and the
question of proportional representation
were indeed raised by the public during the
consultations and are reflected in the report.
"However, the methods of putting the
right of recall and the methodology for
effecting PR were not part of the public
discussion, for acceptance/rejection."
Dillon said the timing of bringing the bill
to Parliament was not the function of the
"As a consequence of the furore
surrounding the bill," he suggested, "good
sense should prevail and that the timing of
debate on such a most important matter be
looked at again."
CRC member Amrika Tiwary-Reddy,
declining comment on the public debate
yesterday, said she considered the CRC's job
She said the CRC had listened to the
public's responses and many meetings were
held. Any queries should be addressed to
the CRC chairman Prakash Ramadhar, she
CRC members Dr Hamid Ghany and
Justice Sebastien Ventour could not be
reached for comment yesterday.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, left, chats with House Speaker Wade Mark and his
wife Sushilla during her annual Eid-ul-Fitr dinner at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's, on
Thursday night. (See page A8) PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
2nd CRC member wants hold on move
Dr Merle Hodge
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