Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 13th 2014 Contents A5
Wednesday, August 13, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Despite the lack of support
from Congress of the People
(COP) MPs---Winston Dookeran
and Carolyn Seepersad-
Bachan---the Government s
(Amendment) Bill was passed
with amendments in the Lower
House at 4.04 am yesterday
and is expected to be debated
in the Senate later this month.
The Government only requires
one Independent senator s vote
for the bill to be passed in the
Senate. This was indicated yes-
terday by Government officials
after marathon debate on the
bill and its contentious runoff
Debate began at 10.30 am
Monday and ended early yes-
terday morning, with the two
COP MPs breaking People s
Partnership (PP) ranks in voting
against the bill.
Winding up debate around 3
am yesterday, Prime Minister
Kamla Persad-Bissessar said
Senate debate will provide a
built-in delay on the bill and
further consultation, including
checks and balances.
"So it s not all done today.
Senate will take up the next step
and the debate will continue.
First the Lower House will
decide on this, secondly the Sen-
ate will decide and thirdly the
people will decide," the PM
Persad-Bissessar added three
amendments to the bills to cover
concerns expressed in the
PP officials said the Senate
debate may be around August
26, allowing time for more dis-
cussions, and the Senate will
debate other bills next Tuesday.
Speaking around 5 am yes-
terday, Attorney General Anand
Ramlogan said Government only
required the vote of one Inde-
pendent senator in the Senate
to pass the bill, adding he
believed Government will obtain
the necessary support.
Yesterday, People s National
Movement (PNM) Senate leader
Camille Robinson-Regis said:
"We will continue to oppose
the bill in the Senate. We noticed
one amendment was made---on
the appointment of a leader
whose party has won 21 seats---
which was what we had sought
to prevent, any sleight of hand.
"However, we are still con-
cerned the Constitutional
Reform Committee asked that
nothing be done until public
comment was received and this
still needs to be done since peo-
ple didn t get to examine the
"Also, we are concerned the
CRC recommended T&T should
retain the first-past-the-post
system and Government has
moved away from the report."
Robinson-Regis added: "We
trust the Independents will do
their duty and vote in accor-
dance with the people s wish-
Kamla agrees to
COP MPs fail to sway Govt on reform bill
In the debate, Dookeran and Seepersad-
Bachan voted with ten Opposition PNM MPs
and the Independent Liberal Party's Jack
Warner against the bill after Persad-
Bissessar freed her MPs from the
government whip to allow a conscience vote,
following the COP's call last Sunday for
postponement of the debate and more
The two COP votes plus PNM and ILP's
totalled 14 against the bill to PP MPs' 23
votes for it.
COP MP Rodger Samuel abstained.
COP MPs were split on the issue, with
party leader Prakash Ramadhar and Dr
Lincoln Douglas voting for the bill, despite
Douglas' expressed concerns over the bill.
Samuel did not speak.
The situation reduced Government's 26-
seat majority to 23 for the vote.
Former COP leader Dookeran, speaking
around 9.30 pm on Monday, said he was
"tormented" on his choice as he felt the
runoff poll was troubling and if he voted for
it, his major concern was he would be voting
against proportional representation, which he
Dookeran said he could not wait for the
Prime Minister's promised PR bill, since he
would be buying "cat in bag."
He felt the runoff would deny access to
democratic rights and was the most
dangerous part of the proposal.
He said he told Cabinet colleagues of his
concerns in a five-page document suggesting
joint select committee consultations but was
"disappointed" and would seek an audience
with the PM on it in the future.
PNM MPs encouraged, applauded and
thumped their desks in approval as Dookeran
spoke, urging him to "take back the COP."
Speaking after 2 am, Seepersad-Bachan,
while congratulating the PM and Ramadhar
for taking steps towards reform, said more
consultations were necessary and the runoff
poll would get rid of third parties.
She said it was a direct counter to the PR
system and asked what was wrong with
saying the PP had erred and would return to
consultation. She also received PNM support.
Douglas, at 2.30 am, congratulated the PM
for allowing a conscience vote but proposed
putting "the whole thing on hold" or removing
the anxiety-causing runoff proposal.
He too urged more consultation, saying
people needed to understand the issues, or
would become suspicious, and should be
involved in lawmaking.
Persad-Bissessar addressed their concerns in
her wind-up address, adding T&T must be a
In the subsequent vote, however, Seepersad-
Bachan and Dookeran both said "no."
When Seepersad-Bachan proposed an
amendment to remove the runoff poll, Speaker
Wade Mark said only written amendments
were accepted in committee stage.
The Opposition PNM resisted all aspects of
the bill, shouting "no!" at each point.
When the COP's Douglas said "yes" to the bill,
PNMites expressed surprise.
PNM MPs Nileung Hypolite and Colm Imbert
returned from vacation overseas for the vote.
Hypolite came from the airport at 10.30 pm on
Monday. MP Joanne Thomas attended with her
neck in a brace.
After debate around 4.30 am, COP's
Seepersad-Bachan told the T&T Guardian she
was disappointed the bill had been passed.
The Lower House is now on a break until the
House reconvenes for the 2015 Budget on
END OF THE DEBATE
• Make it clear the President has power to appoint as prime
minister the leader of the party with 21 and more seats after
• Allow a three-day timeframe for the Elections and
Boundaries Commission to eliminate mischief and verify
signatures in applications to recall MPs.
• Limit the number of recalls in a constituency.
For: 23 PP MPs
PNM MPs: Marlene
McDonald, Keith Rowley,
Nileung Hypolite, Donna Cox,
Colm Imbert, Amery
Browne, Alicia Hospedales,
Deyalsingh, Joanne Thomas,
Paula Gopee- Scoon
COP: Winston Dookeran and
ILP: Jack Warner.
COP: Rodger Samuel
Patricia McIntosh and
St Augustine MP Winston Dookeran
looks over to Congress of the People
leader Prakash Ramadhar while
making his contribution in the debate
in Parliament on Monday night. At
left is Education Minister Dr Tim
Gopeesingh. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
Links Archive August 12th 2014 August 14th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page