Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 19th 2014 Contents A5
Tuesday, August 19, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Protesters opposed to the Con-
stitution (Amendment) Bill 2014
will gather for a second week out-
side Parliament today as they try
to sway members of Senate not
to vote for the controversial leg-
The bill is expected to be debat-
ed in the Senate on August 26.
Unlike last week, government sup-
porters are not expected outside
Head of the non-governmental
organisation, Fixin T&T, Kirk
Waithe said yesterday the protest
would start from 9 am and would
include members from the Work-
ingWomen group, led by Dr Merle
Hodge, and Democracy Watch.
He said he had also contacted
trade unions to support the ini-
"This is not a Fixin T&T thing.
This is about the people rising up
to protect their Constitution. We
are outside Parliament from 4 pm
today (Monday) and tomorrow we
are outside from 9 am as the Sen-
ate starts. The bill will be read into
the Order Paper," Waithe said.
He urged citizens to come out
and support the movement.
"If we won't come out and stand
up to protect our most sacred con-
stitutional right what does that
say about us?" Waithe asked.
"We are in the process of com-
piling a list. We expect there will
be members from various organ-
He said a large portion of the
citizenry was not aware of the
negative ramifications of the bill.
"The Government has played
this absolutely brilliantly because
of the timing and the speed with
which it is being done. Most of
the people don't have a full appre-
ciation of what is happening.
"No government must be
allowed to interfere with the Con-
stitution or to alter the way in
which we vote without first having
comprehensive consultation with
the people. This is the most dan-
gerous assault on the people in the
nation's history," Waithe said.
He said today's protest was not
about party or politics.
"We call on people from all
walks to join us to protect our
country. This bill is being passed
for the wrong reasons and we must
band together to protect the public
purse," Waithe added.
He said campaign finance and
public procurement legislation
must be passed.
Several independent senators
have said they would not be bullied
into voting either for or against
The Government needs at least
one Independent Senator's vote to
pass the legislation. Government
has 16 senators, while the Oppo-
sition PNM has six and the Inde-
pendent bench nine.
Motion to stop bill coming
Meanwhile, former attorney
general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj
said he has started drafting a con-
stitutional motion to challenge the
passage of the Constitution
(Amendment) Bill 2014.
Maharaj, who has vowed to take
the matter all the way to the Privy
Council, said he would do every-
thing possible to wage a legal war
on the Government and was
awaiting the opinion of an English
QC before filing the motion.
"I believe this is an attack on
the people of T&T, the worst in
our nation's history. This fight is
not about party, it is about gov-
ernance. The party that wins will
not repeal this because it will serve
their interest," Maharaj said.
He added that it was not
"democratically wise" for Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
to ignore the cries of the people.
"She has always said the voice
of the people is the voice of God.
The Prime Minister must listen to
the voice of the people, otherwise
the people will make her feel their
wrath," Maharaj said.
He added that the bill was a ploy
to prevent the vote from being
Leaders of Government business in the Lower
House and Senate Dr Roodal Moonilal and Min-
ister Ganga Singh yesterday met with Senate
President Timothy Hamel-Smith over an e-mail
he allegedly sent out seeking to canvass support
for a deferral of the Constitution (Amendment)
Rumours have been circulating that Hamel-
Smith sent an e-mail to various people and organ-
isations asking them to lobby for the bill to be sent
before a Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parlia-
The bill is being debated in Parliament amidst
much public outcry over certain provisions.
The main grouse surrounds the runoff ballot
which proposes a fresh election 15 days after a
general election if no candidate can secure at least
50 per cent of the votes in a constituency. However,
there are fears this will eliminate third parties and
force the electorate to vote for parties it does not
Several people have suggested that Hamel-Smith
should recuse himself from sitting on the bill if
the allegation is true while others have called for
his removal from the position altogether.
Chief among those calling for Hamel-Smith's
recusal is former head of the public service, Reginald
Dumas, who said he had received a copy of the
e-mail. Dumas said it appeared Hamel-Smith was
no longer impartial on the issue.
These calls promoted Moonilal and Singh to
meet with Hamel-Smith yesterday.
Asked about the meeting yesterday, however,
Moonilal said: "Out of respect for his office and
the confidentiality of our discussions I cannot
divulge the contents of those discussions."
Hamel-Smith has neither confirmed nor denied
he sent the e-mails and Parliament communications
staff told the T&T Guardian he said he would not
be speaking on the matter to the media.
Debate on the bill in the Senate is scheduled for
The proposed runoff system is "more
democratic" and will do no harm to voters
who support a candidate who failed to
win the first round of elections. If any-
thing, the proposed system gives those
voters more options than they now have.
So said Nigel Henry, chief analyst of Solu-
tion By Simulation, as he added his voice
to the debate on the Constitution (Amend-
ment) Bill 2014 at a forum hosted by the
Constitutional Affairs and Parliamentary
Studies Unit (CAPSU) of the Department
of Political Science at the University of the
West Indies, St Augustine, yesterday.
Voters who support neither the United
National Congress (UNC) nor the People's
National Movement (PNM) but who sup-
ported a third party would have the option
in the proposed system to vote for the "lesser
of two evils" or to choose not to vote again,
In the current first-past-the-post system,
third party supporters' only option was to
accept the result at the end of the first
round, he added.
Under the proposed system, Henry said
more people would have the opportunity
to be happy with the result than under the
"Result A can be called more democratic
than Result B if more people are happy
under Result A compared to Result B.
"I argue that given that statistical def-
inition of democracy, the two-round system
is a more democratic system," he added.
Speaking to the T&T Guardian in a post-
event interview, Henry said if the legislation
was enacted, it was likely to have a tangible
impact on voter behaviour as more people
were likely to vote in favour of a third party
once they understood that a vote against
one of the two major parties could now
have a more meaningful impact on the
eventual outcome of the election.
"You can translate third party votes into
third party seats," he said.
Henry was among a five-member panel
trading perspectives on the merits of intro-
ducing a second round of runoff votes into
the Parliamentary electoral system.
Another panellist, Samraj Harripaul, SC,
chair of the Law Reform Commission,
agreed with Henry that introducing a second
round of voting would have a substantial
impact on voters' behaviour.
He said from his research, voter turnout
was equal to or higher than first-round
voting in "95 per cent" of the runoff elec-
tions around the world.
Speaking before Henry, Dr Hamid Ghany,
coordinator of CAPSU, presented a com-
pilation of elections results data from pre-
vious elections and identified all the con-
stituencies in which there would have been
runoffs and the candidates/parties who
would have been involved.
His data showed that a high number of
runoffs took place in election years in which
there was a strong third party: Ten in 1981,
11 in 1991 and 14 in 2007.
Ghany identified the specific constituen-
cies and candidates who would have been
involved in runoff elections. The data
showed that third party candidates would
not have been involved in the majority of
Dr Olabisi Kuboni, chair of the Consti-
tution Reform Forum (CRF), like at least
two members of the audience who volun-
teered their own perspectives in the open
session, took issue with the lack of con-
sultation in the process by which bill had
"The CRF is saying that the debate in
the bill must be stopped. It must not become
law. The runoff system is better for majority
rule but the question we have to ask is
majority rule for whom," he said.
He said the runoff system would only
perpetuate entrenched racial divides in
on meeting with
Reform protest on Senate today
'People to make voices heard'
Mixed views at UWI runoff forum
A cross-section of the audience at the Constitutional Affairs and Parliamentary Studies
Unit's panel discussion on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 at the UWI's St
Augustine Campus yesterday. PHOTO: MARYANN AUGUSTE
Links Archive Remembering World Wars 1-2 August 20th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page