Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 9th 2014 Contents A5
Saturday, August 9, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Government s proposal for a two-term
limit for prime ministers limits a voter s
democratic right to select the leader of
their choice for the period of their choice,
says Opposition leader Keith Rowley.
He made the comment in a televised
address last night, as he also repeated calls
for the public to express their dissatisfaction
with the proposed runoff poll.
He also reiterated PNM s plans for con-
stitutional reform which, he pointed out,
included "revisiting the powers of the Pres-
On the term limit, he said, "When would
we have been better off not having a mul-
tiple-term prime minister?... In Tobago,
Orville London secured an awesome victory
in his fourth term. Should we be denying
all those citizens who chose to vote so over-
whelmingly in favour of his leadership and
Reiterating his call for the public to "rise
up" and reject the runoff, Rowley said:
"According to the amendment, the incum-
bent government, which is defeated, or on
its way out, remains in office for at least 15
more days---I say at least because one needs
to consider the likelihood of legal challenges.
It creates the distinct possibility that a
government which has lost an election
remains in control, if even for only 15 more
"What position should our technocrats
and CEOs of state enterprises take? Should
they follow the instructions of the govern-
ment currently in place, or await the arrival
of the new government?
"The amendment effectively creates a sit-
uation where our country is in limbo."
He warned, "We ve been blessed with
peaceful transitions of power despite the
fact our voting patterns unfortunately some-
times mirror racial lines.
"With this amendment, the likely scenario
is that the two major parties are pitted against
each other in circumstances where one party
may have already won the election, but is
being denied the opportunity to enter the
corridors of power. Such a scenario could
bring an end to our history of peaceful tran-
sitions of which we re so proud."
He claimed that in instances where there
has been wrongdoing when in office, the
amendment allows for an incumbent to
utilise the 15 days to destroy evidence of
Rowley also said T&T was suffering from
"election fatigue" and the runoffs "will be
a demotivating and ultimately a destabilising
factor. and voter turnout might be lowered."
Former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence
Maharaj says he has put on his "fighting clothes"
and stands ready to stop the Constitution
(Amendment) Bill 2014, which he believes is a
ruse to steal the 2015 general election.
The bill is expected to be debated in Parliament
Speaking at a press conference in San Fernando
yesterday, Maharaj said he has set up a team of
lawyers to look at the bill and if it is passed in the
House, he will take legal action to stop it from
Saying the bill was not only unconstitutional
and politically corrupt but also fraudulent, Maharaj
said, "It is a recipe for political corruption and an
abuse and misuse of State power. It is clearly a
device for Government to have the opportunity to
steal the next general election.
"If the Constitution (Amendment Bill) 2014 is
made law, a prime minister and ministers of gov-
ernment who lose at the general elections can be
allowed to continue to govern the country for at
least 15 days, 200 days, two years, three years and
even five years. This is political madness. It is out-
He explained that clause nine of the bill says
during the supplementary poll the government
can remain in office until it is required to vacate.
"This gives power to the government to have
the opportunity of using state resources for its own
purposes and to practise political fraud and deceit
upon the electorate of T&T. This is taking away
the democratic rights of the people and gives power
to the government for it to be dictatorial and unde-
mocratic," Maharaj said.
He added that it was not true that Government
had consulted with the nation.
Recipe for dictatorship
Maharaj accused Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar of making the controversial supplementary
poll by shrouding it with the more popular issues
such as the right to recall and the two-term gov-
Saying the bill was a recipe for dictatorship and
would kill democracy, Maharaj added, "There is a
risk that T&T will become like Afghanistan, Ukraine,
Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria and other countries
which have political instability."
"The business community would lose its invest-
ments and the economy of T&T would be irrepara-
bly damaged. Trade union movements would
become powerless. The people will lose their human
and fundamental rights and the Constitution will
become meaningless," Maharaj predicted.
Asked if the Government had the requisite major-
ity to pass the law, Maharaj said, "If it is a two-
thirds majority, they do not have it. If it s a three-
quarter majority, they do not have it. If it s a
three-fifths majority, they have it.
"If the Congress of the People decides they are
going to withdraw support for the bill, then they
would not have the three-fifths majority, but if I
am correct, then its not a simple majority vote,
it s a two-thirds vote, which the Government does
"This should not be a legal fight, this should be
a people fight," he said, adding that he had set up
a group called Democracy Watch to lobby against
the erosion of democracy.
"If it is one law which is going to mash up T&T,
it is this law. We would not be able to recover if
we have a situation which the losing government
governs T&T for even a day, that is going to be
a serious precedent and I do not think the people
will accept that," Maharaj said, commenting that
that would give rise to tribal voting, political insta-
bility and violence.
Ramesh vows to
stop reform bill
Runoff could leave T&T in limbo---Rowley
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has
dismissed allegations by Constitution
Reform Commission (CRC) member Dr
Merle Hodge that the controversial runoff
ballot proposed in the Constitutional
(Amendment) Bill 2014 was not part of
the discussion during the commission s
interaction with the public or in its report.
In a letter sent to the media late Thursday,
Hodge, author, activist and retired University
of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer, called
on the Government to hold its hand on the
bill and described the runoff polls for MPs
proposed in the draft legislation as "anti-
democratic" and a contradiction of "the
principle of proportional representation."
But speaking a press conference at his St
Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain office yes-
terday, Ramlogan questioned the basis for
Hodge s criticism, as he said the provision
was indeed part of a report to Government
prepared by the commission.
"One would expect and hope that before
they put their signatures on that document
there would have been mature reflection,
careful deliberation and genuine discussion
amongst these persons who were appointed
and paid, I might add, to serve on that com-
mission," Ramlogan said. (See pages A10,
A11 and A12)
Ramlogan also suggested Hodge s state-
ment might have been motivated by her
personal political views.
"It s a matter of public record that Mrs
(sic) Hodge was a supporter of Winston
Dookeran while I was part of the Congress
of the People (COP), because she appeared
on the platform in support of Mr Dookeran.
"I don t know if there is any merit to the
claim that this is a hangover from the inter-
nal election campaign in 2010 that did not
go too well for the Dookeran faction as
opposed to the Ramadhar faction," Ramlogan
The AG reiterated his support for the leg-
islation, which he said was long overdue,
as the recommendations of several other
similar commissions had been ignored by
previous governments for the past 40 years.
The provision was first revealed earlier
this week by Prime Minister Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar when she tabled the legislation,
which also includes a two-term limit for
prime ministers and right of recall for MPs,
during her presentation at the opening of
the fifth and final session of the tenth Par-
liament. The bill is to be debated on Monday.
If passed by a simply majority in Parlia-
ment, MPs who win by less than 50 per
cent of votes cast in the constituency will
have to participate in a runoff poll. The sec-
ondary poll will take place within two weeks
of the main election, with voters deciding
between the two candidates who received
the most votes in the initial count.
MPs will be vulnerable
Ramlogan said the runoff polls were a
direct and logical consequence of the pro-
posed recall of non-performing MPs and
was needed to complement it.
"You cannot give a right of recall with
so many MPs elected with a minority of
the votes cast. They will be vulnerable to
be recalled," Ramlogan said.
Questioned on the possibility that fewer
voters might participate in the runoff poll
as opposed to the initial general election,
Ramlogan said it was unlikely.
"We are yet to find such a case in the
world from our research. It is always you
get a larger turnout," he said.
AG knocks Hodge
As dissenting reform bill voices grow
Former prime minister Patrick Manning,right, arrives at his constituency office in San Fernando for a meeting to discuss the
government's constitutional reform proposals on Thursday night. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
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