Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 16th 2014 Contents A11
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Former Oropouche West MP
Mickela Panday says the proposed
runoff vote in the controversial
Constitution (Amendment) Bill
2014 is a scheme by the Govern-
ment to continue the trend of
Describing the bill as an elaborate
ruse to hoodwink the public, she
said genuine reform was never its
At the Movement for Social Jus-
tice s (MSJ) Constitutional Reform
Bill forum on Wednesday, Panday
endorsed proportional representa-
tion as an alternative.
She said the current first-past-
the-post voting system already
excluded minority representation
in Parliament and the runoff vote
does nothing to change this, but
proportional representation would
allow the wider population to be
"The proposal for runoff is there-
fore nothing but a ruse to escape
the issue of proportional represen-
tation, because they fear that pro-
portional representation will negate
the tendency towards racial and
ethnic voting, which has divided
our society historically over the
years," Panday said
She said the bill narrowed cit-
izens voting options and challenged
the Government to explain how it
would increase democracy.
"How does this deepen our
democracy when you are taking
choice away from the people?" she
"You are in fact forcing them to
choose between two parties, neither
of which they want.
"Such a system would only serve
to do the opposite and further
entrench ethnic voting in our
already polarised country."
Speaking on the proposed fixed
election date, Panday said the Gov-
ernment did not consider a gov-
ernment being removed before its
five-year term ends.
She said a fixed date for elections
would only work under a republican
form of government and not the
Westminster system T&T follows.
She also suggested that Cabinet
members should not be MPs and
Parliament should include inves-
tigating and monitoring commit-
Public unrest possible
Another speaker, attorney Judy
Kublalsingh, said because the bill
could diminish citizens power, it
might lead to public unrest.
"When our systems fail us and
we have no say in the decision-
making process, and we have
unscrupulous politicians with their
own agendas...we are forced to
resort to spectacular forms of pol-
"Actions on the ground, burning
tyres, marching through the streets,
blocking tractors and the ultimate
protest action, the hunger strike.
"These are the symptoms of
powerlessness and at the same time,
conversely, indicators of how pow-
erful we are as a people," she said.
She said nothing was wrong with
setting term limits for prime min-
isters, but questioned its relevance
in empowering people.
She said the proposed amend-
ments added little substance to the
electorate, as they were devised to
give the impression that the Gov-
ernment was making a bold move
to empower the people.
Mickela Panday: Reform bill a retrograde step
Fixin T&T is supporting the call
for public debate on the Constitution
(Amendment) Bill 2014, even as they
continue to demand the enactment
of referendum legislation.
In a release yesterday, the group
said public debate was "healthy" and
underscored the urgent need for ref-
erendum legislation, maintaining
"that the fundamental issue with the
runoff is that no government must
be allowed to interfere with, alter,
change or in any way impact the
manner in which we, the people, vote
without first engaging in compre-
hensive consultation with us, the peo-
The non-governmental organisation
also indicated its intention to join
hands with members of the public
who were gathered outside the Par-
liament building yesterday, continuing
to highlight their dissatisfaction with
the Government s decision to proclaim
the necessary legislation on Monday.
That group has been protesting
since Monday outside Parliament and
will continue to do so until the senate
meets on the issue on August 26. The
proposed runoff ballot system has
drawn the most criticism from the
public, since many believe it should
be discussed with the public before
it goes before the House.
Just last week, Prime Minister
Kamla Persad-Bissessar insisted the
purpose of runoff and the focus of
the legislation was to ensure that
when a person casts their vote, the
Member of Parliament elected would
be selected based on the majority of
votes and not the minority.
Persad-Bissessar has explained that
"where a candidate does not get 50
per cent from the vote, only in those
instances will there be a second ballot
between the highest-scoring candi-
dates to select them."
The bill was passed on Monday
with three amendments. These
include not impeding the president s
ability to appoint a prime minister
should runoffs take place, banning
multiple recalls to avoid mischief and
harassment, and imposing a three-
day limit on the Elections and Bound-
aries Commission s verification of the
two initial applicants for a recall peti-
Fixin T&T urged independent sen-
ators who said they would consider
the bill on its own merit to consider
the voice of citizens and "send this
matter to a Joint Select Committee
in order to allow time for meaningful
discussions throughout T&T."
In the interim, the group suggested
that a "referendum would then be
the logical next step."
A referendum is a direct vote in
which an entire electorate is asked to
vote on a particular proposal.
Fixin T&T joins
Featured speakers at the Movement For Social Justice's forum on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill former
attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, left, attorneys Mikela Panday and Judy Kublalsingh, and MSJ
leader David Abdulah at the OWTU's Paramount Building, San Fernando, on Wednesday.
PHOTOS: TONY HOWELL
President of T&T Sheep and Goats' Association, Shiraz Khan, asks a question during the MSJ Forum on the
Constitution (Amendment) Bill.
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