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March 2, 2013- Cabinet appoints a National
Commission on Constitutional Reform to
engage in public consultation on constitutional
12 June 2013 - Legal Affairs Minister
Prakash Ramadhar says $4 million is spent on
27 December 2013 - The Report of the
Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) is
submitted to the Prime Minister.
30 April - A meeting is held and the CRC
agrees to some proposals selected from the
report, to be taken to Parliament. The runoff is
9 July - Another meeting is held to discuss
recommendations. Commissioner Merle Hodge
says she was absent from this meeting in
which the runoff ballot is discussed.
4 August - Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar reveals that second ballot runoff
voting, right of recall, fixed election dates and
two term limits for Prime Ministers will be part
of the new constitutional reform.
6 August - Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley
describes the proposed legislation as
"dangerous" saying it had the potential for a
defeated party to hold on to power while
secondary elections are held.
7 August - Constitutional Reform
Commission Member, Dr Merle Hodge says the
contentious runoff proposal was not in the
People's Partnership manifesto, the main
consultations around the country or in the
commission's final report. She calls for the
parliamentary debate to be postponed.
8 August - Attorney General Anand
Ramlogan says commissioners were
"handsomely paid" and attacks Hodge saying
she was upset by the defeat of the Winston
Dookeran faction by the Ramadhar faction in
the Congress of the People's (COP) internal
8 August - Former attorney general Ramesh
Lawrence Maharaj says the bill will trigger
political instability in T&T if it becomes law. He
vows to mount a legal fight to stop the bill.
9 August - Former Senator Subhas Panday
also predicts dire consequences for T&T if the
bill is passed, saying it is an attack on
9 August - Non-governmental organisation
Fixin T&T mounts a protest outside the Prime
Minister's Philippine residence. They are chased
off by government supporters led by chairman
of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation
10 August - Movement for Social Justice also
calls for the postponement of the debate and
issues a call for COP and TOP parliamentarians
to withdraw their support.
10 August - Congress of the People calls for
a delay in the vote of the legislation to allow for
Monday, August 11, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
for 08TH AUGUST, 2014
In anticipation of a showdown both
inside and outside of Parliament, police
have boosted land, sea and air patrols
as government and opposition forces
are expected to gather at the Waterfront
for the debate on the Constitution
(Amendment) Bill 2014 this morning.
Sources said supporters from United
National Congress (UNC) strongholds are
being mobilised to gather outside Par-
liament to show support for the bill.
Opposition People s National Move-
ment forces as well as social groups such
as Fixin T&T and Advocates for Change,
other political parties the Movement for
Social Justice (MSJ), the Independent Lib-
eral Party (ILP), are also planning to have
an all night vigil outside parliament build-
ing while the debate is going on.
Off-duty law enforcement officers from
Central Police, Traffic Branch, Besson
Street and Port-of-Spain CID have been
called out to duty in anticipation of the
protests, sources said. In addition to the
Court and Process Branch police officers
who are assigned to Parliamentary duties,
a team of Special Branch officers have
also been assigned to today s hearing.
"We expect to have plain clothes offi-
cers mingling with the crowds and we
are also monitoring mobilisation from
opposition and government constituen-
cies," a senior police officer said on the
condition of anonymity, as he was not
authorised to speak on today s security
Another social group Democracy
Watch, an organisation aligned to former
attorney general Ramesh Lawrence
Maharaj as well was also last night dis-
cussing their intentions to join the vigil.
In defending his decision to protest
outside parliament, Fixin T&T s leader
Kirk Waithe said the people of T&T must
force the postponement of the debate.
"This is the singular most dangerous
attack on the people and constitution in
the history of T&T. This is worse than
all the other scandals of this government
and previous governments combined
because if this legislation is passed, an
incumbent government that wins one
seat in the general elections can retain
power for an indefinite period of time,"
Saying "this is the beginning of the
end of democracy if it is allowed to be
debated," Waithe called on the citizenry
to join them in protest.
"Be prepared to stay all night. We must
unite to stop this," Waithe said.
Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley also
called on citizens to stand up against the
attack on democracy.
"I want to invite every citizen to rise
up and join us with vigilance and con-
viction in protecting our democracy. I
invite every citizen, every group, every
association, regardless of your age, your
religion, gender, political affiliation, social
standing or geographical location to join
with us in stopping this open attack on
our democratic rights and freedoms,"
Rowley said in a televised address to the
nation on Friday.
Saying the runoff ballot will cause con-
fusion, Rowley accused government of
attempting to pass laws that would enable
them to stay in office long after the party
has been defeated.
"Look at the government s track record
of abuse, deception and insincerity. Gov-
ernment is under-estimating the intel-
ligence of this country," Rowley charged.
The PNM has scheduled a public meet-
ing at Bournes Road, St James on Tuesday
night to further discuss the issue.
Debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2014 today
Meanwhile, MSJ leader David Abdulah
said the people must take power into their
hands. He said the government could not
pass the bill if the Congress of the People
(COP) and Tobago Organisation of the
People (TOP) parliamentarians withheld
their support. (See other story on Page A5)
Abdulah said the former attorney general
Maharaj as well as former Oropouche West
MP Mickela Panday will be speaking at a
public education meeting on Wednesday
night in San Fernando.
However, leader of government business
Dr Roodal Moonilal said Rowley was inciting
the population to protest. Accusing Rowley
of being a "merchant of fear" Moonilal said
the constitutional reform laws will bolster
participatory governance. He said the
current Westminster system of
government did not cater for third parties
but under the new reform, third parties will
get a second chance of victory under the
Education minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh
also denied that the reform initiatives were
an attack on democracy.
"Let the debate go on and let the
population be better informed," Gopeesingh
said. He also accused the Opposition of
inciting political violence in T&T.
Since Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar introduced the bill in Parliament
on August 4, which proposes fixed terms
for the office of Prime Minister, right of
recall and a runoff vote to eliminate
minority MPs, there has been objection
from a wide cross-section of society against
the controversial runoff provision.
Debate is expected to begin today from
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