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Monday, August 18, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
for 15TH AUGUST, 2014
Government isn t backing down from
tabling its controversial Constitution
amendment bill in the Senate tomorrow---
for debate on August 26---despite height-
ened appeals for postponement and yes-
terday s Opposition People s National
Movement (PNM) call for the bill to be
The bill and its controversial runoff poll
proposal was passed in the Lower House
last Tuesday after marathon debate, though
Congress of the People (COP) MPs Win-
ston Dookeran and Carolyn Seepersad-
Bachan voted against the bill along with
the PNM and Independent Liberal Party
(ILP) MP Jack Warner.
COP leader Prakash Ramadhar and fellow
MP Dr Lincoln Douglas voted for the bill
while MP Rodger Samuel abstained.
Yesterday, some Lopinot/Bon Air West
constituents burnt an effigy of Douglas at
the Emancipation Park.
Now headed for August 26 debate in the
Senate, the bill will require the vote of at
least one Independent Senator for passage.
The bill is expected to be tabled---but
not debated---at tomorrow s Senate session,
where debate focuses on Finance Intelligence
Last week, several groups as well as Seep-
ersad-Bachan called for the Senate debate
to be postponed to allow for more public
Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith,
a COP member, is also at the centre of a
furore concerning an e-mail he is reported
to have sent to certain people and organ-
isations, urging them to go to the media to
lobby for the bill to be referred to a Par-
liamentary Joint Select Committee for fur-
The Law Association on the weekend
also called for postponement of debate and
urged Government to facilitate "proper con-
sultation" and allow the population oppor-
tunity to ventilate views.
PNM whip Marlene McDonald, who last
week called on Independent Senators not
to support the bill, said yesterday the bill
should be withdrawn completely as it was
"undemocratic and unconstitutional."
McDonald said the Law Association had
been slow to respond, but nevertheless
called for postponement. She said, however,
that it was not merely a matter of passing
the bill, but that it should be withdrawn
She said she agreed with PNM leader Dr
Keith Rowley on this and also agreed with
his concern that the Election and Bound-
aries Commission had said it wasn t con-
sulted on the bill.
But yesterday, acting Attorney General
Dr Roodal Moonilal said while calls for
more dialogue and debate were being made,
the Senate debate on the bill was not pro-
ceeding immediately at this Tuesday s Sen-
ate session, but on the August 26 session.
"Because of the space in between those
two dates, greater public debate and talks
on the bill will have an opportunity to
occur," he added.
However, Moonilal said the Government s
agenda for debate of the bill in the Senate
hasn t changed, "...so far, and if it does,
we ll so inform the national community.
But it s not that we re not listening. In the
period between debate in one House (of
Representatives) and the other (Senate)
there are a couple weeks for society to con-
tinue to discuss the bill."
Moonilal added, "There are different calls
being made, including the PNM s call, to
try and scare people. Those we won t
accept. But we do accept calls for more
dialogue and that is what will take place.
Those calling for delays can also make rec-
ommendations on the bill. Government is
open-minded on valid recommendations
"But we re also clear on the objective
that we promised constitutional reform in
the PP s manifesto, which was laid in Par-
liament, and we ll proceed notwithstanding
the hysteria the PNM is generating in our
Last week, Moonilal signalled that Gov-
ernment might be open to amendments to
the bill in the Senate debate.
On Saturday, the ILP, Movement for
Social Justice (MSJ), some COP elements,
former UNC MP Ramesh Lawrence
Maharaj and Mikela Panday spoke against
the bill. Tonight, the UNC hosts a public
meeting in Gasparillo where its speakers
will deal with the issue.
Yesterday, COP s Dookeran, when asked
if he supported postponement of debate
or even withdrawal of the bill, said, "Let
the discussions (on this) continue. I stand
where I stood in Parliament (on the bill)---
that s all I ll say."
recuse himself from
debate on the Con-
ment) Bill 2014---or
expected to be
among issues dis-
cussed when acting
Roodal Moonilal and
PP Senate leader
Ganga Singh meet
with him today.
The meeting will address an e-mail Hamel-
Smith was reported to have issued urging certain
people and organisations to mount a lobby to
have the bill referred to a special Parliamentary
JSC team for more consultations.
The e-mail, which urged those people and
groups to take their call to the media, was report-
ed to have been issued after COP s August 10
Council session which sought postponement of
the bill in the Lower House.
COP ranks in the Parliament were split on
the vote---the former COP leader and an MP
for it and the current leader and an MP against,
while one colleague abstained.
There has been no denial or confirmation
from Hamel-Smith, a COP member, that he
sent the e-mail. He has, however, noted that
he has voiced views on constitutional reform,
questioned if people didn t want him to have
views and said those views were expressed before
the bill arose.
Several former presiding officers of the Senate
have said they usually cut ties or disassociated
themselves from their party, maintained an
impartial approach and only dealt with matters
of procedure of the House before them.
It was uncertain if Hamel-Smith would recuse
himself from debate on the constitutional bill
alone or others, including tomorrow s senate
session that deals with Financial Intelligence
Finance Minister Larry Howai said at last
week s cabinet media briefing the bill is necessary
for T&T s third and fourth round evaluations
on the regulations.
These are due by January.
Asked if T&T was in danger of being black-
listed for non-compliance, Howai said Govern-
ment had a hectic legislative agenda and wanted
to get as many bills passed in the period as pos-
sible, since the 2015 Budget and other matters
are ahead and will occupy much of September.
He also said T&T had a very proactive team
which specialises in anti-money laundering and
affiliated issues. (Gail Alexander)
meets PP on
Moonilal on Senate runoff protests
We'll listen to
Bon Air residents attack an effigy of their Member of Parliament, Dr Lincoln Douglas,
during a protest over his support for Government on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill
2014 yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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