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Wednesday, August 13, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
for 12TH AUGUST, 2014
Hours after ending an all-night
vigil outside the Parliament Build-
ing, Port-of-Spain, activists
returned to the scene yesterday to
continue protesting over the now
(Amendment) Bill 2014.
They upped their efforts after the
bill was passed in the Lower House
early yesterday with 23 Government
MPs voting for it, 14 MPs---including
the Congress of the People s Winston
Dookeran and Carolyn Seepersad-
Bachan---voting against it and COP s
Dr Rodger Samuel abstaining, despite
a public outcry and internal coalition
concern from the COP against doing
so before more public consultation,
especially on the runoff poll.
The People s Partnership now
needs only one senator to vote with
it for the bill to be passed when the
Upper House debates it in two
weeks, Attorney General Anand
Ramlogan announced yesterday. (See
Pages A5, A10 and A11)
Yesterday, activist Kirk Waithe
was joined by Constitution Reform
Commission member Dr Merle
Hodge, environmental activist Dr
Wayne Kublalsingh and several oth-
ers as he protested outside the Par-
Waithe, who intends to protest
until the Senate sits on the bill, said
Government was wasting the coun-
try s time.
"The focus is engaging on edu-
cating the public so that this bill
could be stopped," Waithe said in
an interview with the T&T Guardian.
"We need to get to what is the
most important business of the peo-
ple which is legislation to govern
political-campaign financing, polit-
ical-party financing and procure-
"The number one job of our Par-
liament right now should be pro-
tecting the country s purse," he
Political analyst Dr Winford James said yes-
terday there would be a political backlash for
the People s Partnership Government now that
the Constitutional (Amendment) bill has been
Saying he was not surprised the Congress of
the People s (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar voted
for the bill, James said: "It was expected Ramadhar
would not vote based on his conscience like Dook-
eran and Seepersad-Bachan did."
He noted, however, the result would have
remained the same even if Ramadhar had voted
Several independent senators and political ana-
lysts declined comment on the controversial bill
Derek Ramsamooj, who went to Parliament for
the bill, said he did not wish to offer his opinion
to the media.
Independent Senator Rev Joy Abdul-Mohan
said she wanted to research the legislation before
She said: "I am trying to be well prepared before
I make any decision or comment. I am doing
research on this bill. I have to be cautious so I
prefer not to comment at this time."
Another political analyst, Dr Bishnu Ragoonath,
said the PP remained strong despite the absence
of collective Cabinet voting on the bill. However,
he said, divergence of political positions within
the COP showed that party was splintering.
Ragoonath said he was not surprised Ramadhar
voted for the bill although he had called on Sunday
for a delay in the parliamentary vote.
"Ramadhar had to support the bill. He was the
minister who piloted the consultations so that
was expected. As for Dookeran and Carolyn, they
played their hands the way they wanted to play
it because Dookeran had announced he was not
going to support it. He allowed his conscience
vote to take place," Ragoonath said.
Asked about the PM s decision to let MPs to
vote on conscience, Ragoonath said that was a
smart move but he said the controversy surround-
ing the bill would not weaken the Partnership.
"The Partnership is only as strong as the UNC.
The Partnership is in power with five COP and
two TOP MPs and as we move into the next elec-
tion, there is no guarantee that Tobago will return
The COP will have to fight for the seats they
have. The COP will now have to revisit its position
on its own platform as to who is the leader because
there seems to be greater in-fighting within the
COP," Ragoonath said.
Asked about his thoughts on the bill, Ragoonath
said it was "a good piece of legislation."
"I don t see this bill as an attack on democracy.
It is a good bill. The unfortunate things is if the
Government had given time for the bill to be
debated and discussed among the citizenry, it
would have been accepted," he noted.
He said the rush by Government to pass the
bill was being viewed with suspicion by the pop-
Anti-runoff lobbyists focus on Senators...
Bill must be stopped
Dr Merle Hodge puts the finishing touches to her placard during a protest outside the Parliament
Building, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. Anti-runoff lobbyists plan to continue their protests outside
Parliament until the Senate meets on the now controversial Constitution (Amendment) Bill.
PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
backlash will come
Waithe said the activists would lobby
senators and engaging the public further.
"We want them to reject this bill
unless it is sent to a Joint Select
Committee (JSC) which engages a public
"You cannot mess with our vote. The
bill must be rejected, just like the soldier
bill," he said.
Waithe said he was heartened by the
contributions of COP members Dookeran
and Seepersad-Bachan during the
debate in the Lower House.
"Finally, after way too long, they have
stood up to their principles," he said.
Hodge said her group, WorkingWomen,
supported calls for senators to reject the
"We are determined that this bill
should not become law," Hodge said.
She said she would continue her
attempts to educate the public and
support a people's protest.
Hodge, who was part of the CRC team
during the government-commissioned
public consultations on constitutional
reform, has joined the anti-bill lobby
since admitting last week that the
controversial runoff poll was not part of
those public consultation.
Kublalsingh, no stranger to battles
with the Government as head of the
Highway Reroute Movement, said the
attempts to change the electoral system
would present confusion to the
"This is another attempt to tinker with
the Constitution without giving people
"If you were really serious about
constitution reform, you wouldn't start
by picking the chairperson of the
committee from Government. A more
independent approach was needed," he
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