Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 12th 2014 Contents A5
Tuesday, August 12, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
If Congress of the People (COP) leader
Prakash Ramadhar is the "turkey who s
prepared to vote for Thanksgiving"--- the
runoff poll idea --- then the People s Nation-
al Movement (PNM) is not voting for that,
Opposition Dr Keith Rowley said yester-
"If after he (Ramadhar) brought it to the
Parliament and laid it as the way to go under
the guise of national interest, he has to go
to his own party and be told, We don t
want it, stop it, then that s for him!" Rowley
added while speaking in yesterday s Parlia-
ment debate on Government s package of
constitutional reform bills.
Rowley said the runoff system was the
real reason for the legislation because of the
Government s concerns about the PNM s
power in a three-way political fight. He said
the legislation was needed to reinforce the
United National Congress s position in such
a situation and treat with UNC s fear over
the next general election.
"But it puts the party (UNC) interest over
the national interest," he added.
Rowley said the UNC segment of the
People s Partnership (PP) had disregarded
the Constitution Reform Commission s rec-
ommendation that there should be political
consensus on drafting any constitutional
legislation bills and even some PP members
didn t know how the current bills had aris-
en. He said the COP was saying they were
not with the PP and the PNM had also been
left out of the discussions.
He said half the Cabinet didn t hear about
the proposal until last week and Ramadhar,
head of the Legislative Review Committee,
had questions on how it went to Cabinet.
The situation, Rowley noted, meant 15
PP MPs could change T&T s electoral system
and justify it by saying the PNM had also
had runoff polls, since once there was a
quorum and Government had one more
than the Opposition the legislation would
Rowley said the situation caused the PP
to be "in a war" with CRC commission
member Dr Merle Hodge, since the Attorney
General had "attacked" her in his statements
last week and should not have done so
because Hodge had raised the question of
where the proposal came from.
However, Rowley had to apologise to
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and
withdraw an incorrect statement he made
about her on the Hodge issue.
See Page A6
Proposal rejected in UK
Rowley called for the population to "bury"
the PP with the proposal during elections
in the same way the UK electorate reportedly
rejected a similar proposal from the Con-
servative Liberal-Democratic coalition in
Calling on the Government to call the
general election now, he said Government
should ask the people what they wanted
and not speak for them.
Whereas during the period of the 18-18
election deadlock years ago, in which the
environment was different, he claimed the
proposal would now allow 15 days of "elec-
tioneering and campaigning" to occur while
parties awaited results of a runoff polls.
"It creates the environment for bribery,
splurging and chaos to try and change the
results," he said, citing situations that
occurred in the THA election and St Joseph
Rowley said the PP only resorted to saying
they were doing things "because the PNM
did it too" when they were in trouble, but
the PNM would not be taken in by the Prime
Minister s "sweet talk."
He claimed she said previously that the
third parties held "dangerous potential" and
that was the driving factor behind the pro-
posed runoff poll.
The Government s proposal for recall of
MPs in the fourth year, he argued, was also
Saying the PP could not be trusted, he
said: "Yes, we fraid all you and we have
good reason to fraid you."
Chastising Government for calling a Par-
liament session during the "vacation" peri-
od, he said Government had "ambushed"
the Opposition and PNM MPs overseas on
vacation had to be rushing to airports to
get home for the debate.
There is a serious effort by the Peo-
ple s National Movement (PNM) to
demonise the first effort at constitu-
tional reform but it has taken root and
nobody can stop it, says Congress of
the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramad-
"Stop the debate? No! When you truly
analyse it, there is nothing wrong with
it," Ramadhar said during his contribution
to the debate yesterday on the contro-
versial Constitution (Amendment) Bill
2014 in the Lower House.
After extensive deliberations with COP
national council members on Sunday,
Ramadhar had announced that the party
had moved a motion to delay voting on
the bill until wider consultation was done.
Yesterday he lambasted the Opposition
for creating fear among supporters and
inciting mob rule.
"They believe in leading by fright rather
than by light. Their first attack is so
forceful. The whole purpose of the attack
is to ensure the train doesn t get out of
the station," Ramadhar said.
Leadership must never be won by fear,
"The only thing you have to fear is fear
itself and fearmongers. This makes us
subject to mob rule.
"You are calling for an election? You
will have no election but you will not
have a government terrorised by your
"They are pelting mud in all directions
hoping some will stick. Some did stick,"
Ramadhar said fixed term limits for
prime ministers gave them a chance to
leave a good legacy. The right to recall
an MP, he said, also gave the population
authority between election dates. The
runoff ballot, he added, was a very poor
but necessary substitute for proportional
Jack: Where was
consultation on runoff?
Independent Liberal Party (ILP) chairman Jack
Warner is charging that the controversial runoff
ballot provision is contained in a secret document
given privately to Prime Minister Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar and was not part of the national
consultations on constitutional reform.
Warner made the claim during debate on the
Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 which started
in the Lower House yesterday.
Saying that the bill is a bitter attack on third
parties and will increase tribalism, he quoted Con-
stitution Reform Commission member Dr Merle
Hodge to back up his claim.
In an argument against bringing the bill to the
House last week, Hodge said the runoff provision
did not come from the people and was never
revealed to the people before August 4, Warner
told the House.
"From last Monday to this Monday we were
given a document and we have to vote on it. Who
were the signatories to this document? Where
was the consultation process?" Warner asked.
He read from page two of the Constitution
Commission Report, compiled after several national
consultations, which said the House of Repre-
sentatives should continue to be elected as it had
been since Independence, with voters electing by
the first-past-the-post method.
Warner argued that Persad-Bissessar was forced
to make a concession and declare she was freeing
her Cabinet ministers of collective responsibility
because of the public furore against the bill. But
he noted it was not a gift as she was trying to
make it out to be.
"It was not a gift. It was a concession. She had
to concede following the COP (Congress of the
People) meeting last night (Sunday). Let her didn t
do so nah." (YB)
The Chaguanas West MP said he asked two
Cabinet ministers if they had voted for the bill
and one said no and the other said he did not
Warner said he told them it was the death knell
of their parties and a plan to subsume their political
groups into the monolithic United National Con-
"A word to the wise is enough," he said.
Third parties are important because there are
people voting up to now for the National Joint
Action Committee (NJAC), he said.
After a lengthy meeting with its national council
members, the COP executive announced on Sun-
day that a motion was moved that voting on the
Bill should be delayed until a proper analysis of
it. COP leader Prakash Ramadhar said then that
a month was a reasonable time and was optimistic
the PM would heed their request.
But yesterday, Warner said the provision about
the right to recall a non-functioning MP in the
bill sounded good on paper but was just a toothless
Giving examples, using the constituencies of
St Augustine and Siparia in the 2010 general elec-
tion, he said candidates would have to gain two-
thirds of the electorate in order to remove incum-
He said there were 25,582 registered voters in
St Augustine and 19,284 cast their vote on the
2010 general election. Ramadhar, the incumbent
St Augustine MP, got 15,271 votes. To take him
out, a candidate will have to get 17,000-plus votes,
He said it was important to get the courts to
interpret the bill.
Interspersing his contribution with kind words
for PNM members, Warner said since last July to
now he has refused to eat with members of the
"I have a coffee next door or I read a book,"
Blows from Rowley for PP in reform debate...
Govt can't be trusted
We can't stop reform train now---Prakash
Opposition supporters call for the debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 to be
stopped during a protest yesterday outside the Parliament Building, Tower D, International
Waterfront, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: MARYANN AUGUSTE
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