Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 20th 2014 Contents A7
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Protests over the government s Con-
stitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 contin-
ued yesterday, a week before the bill is
scheduled to be debated in the Senate.
Yesterday, the bill was laid in the Senate
but other issues were on the Order Paper
A group of around 30 people stood on
the pavement on Wrightson Road, white
shirts matching the placards in their hands,
as they faced drivers and pedestrians with
the message that they were not prepared
to accept the bill.
Jamelia Reid-Cato said she felt the entire
bill was unconstitutional and poorly draft-
ed.She has gathered more than 3,000 sig-
natures through an online petition calling
for debate of the bill to be discontinued.
"I am here today to protest this bill. I
feel like my vote is being taken away.
"This bill suggests that I must vote for
my party, if it is a third party, and then
in 15 days my vote for that party does not
count," she said.
Her chosen political party is not a third
party, as she is a member of the People s
National Movement. But she said her polit-
ical affiliation had nothing to do with her
feelings on the amendments to the Con-
"I want to raise the awareness that this
bill needs to be stopped. It is poorly drafted
Reid-Cato, who is a logistics manager
at a private company, said she had read
the bill and been left with more questions
Virginia Nevarra, from Marabella, said
she decided to come to Port-of-Spain early
yesterday morning because she was afraid
of the implications of the bill.
"Why are they trying to take away my
right to vote for whomever I want?" Nevar-
She said her main concern was over the
runoff provision in the bill, which says if
a candidate does not win by more than
50 per cent of votes in the initial poll, a
second election would be called with the
top two parties vying for the seat.
Another San Fernando resident said: "I
have grandchildren. If I don t stand up
and be one of the people trying to stop
this, then I would not be doing what is
right for them."
Most of the protesters claimed to be
independent of any political party, but
said they were people concerned with their
democratic rights and freedoms.
"This bill is oppressive and it is a charade
and a mockery," said Trevor Contaste, as
he held two placards in the air, facing pass-
ing cars and occasionally turning towards
Fixin TnT President Kirk Waithe was
also at the Parliament yesterday and said
he would be delivering a package to all
senators before the debate on Tuesday.
"We will be giving them the copy of the
petition initiated by Jamelia Reid-Cato
and other documents to consider during
this debate," he said.
When the bill was debated in the Lower
House last week during a marathon ses-
sion, a group of protesters camped outside
the Parliament to highlight their objection
to the controversial runoff provision.
Without fanfare the Constitution (Amend-
ment) Bill 2014 was laid in the Senate yester-
day to be debated on August 26.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate
Ganga Singh laid the controversial bill, while
a small band of protesters led by Kirk Waithe
of Fixin TnT stood quietly outside Parliament
in Tower D at the Port-of-Spain Waterfront
A police officer
stationed at the
entrance of the Par-
liament opened the
door for people
entering the build-
The bill was laid
amidst public out-
cry, largely due to
the runoff ballot
provision that the
two top candidates
in an election have to return to the polls unless
one wins with at least 50 per cent of the vote.
Yesterday, the Miscellaneous Provisions (Pro-
ceeds of Crime Anti-Terrorism, Financial Intel-
ligence Unit of T&T) Bill 2014 was read and
debated in the Upper House.
Senator Lester Henry, leading off the debate
on the Opposition side, complained throughout
his contribution about the Government calling
parliamentarians out to work during what was
supposed to be their vacation.
Noting the bill would not make any difference
unless put into action, he said: "I am not quite
happy with Parliament being called in the middle
"I would have preferred to be on holiday with
my family. Parliaments all over the world are
Henry complained for several minutes until
someone from the Government benches shouted
in protest that he was not speaking on the bill,
causing Senate president Timothy Hamel-Smith
to rise to intervene.
"I think you made your point," Hamel-Smith
Henry still wanted to have the last word on
the matter. "That is not good," he said, referring
again to being called out to work.
Delving into the bill, he said the fact of the
matter was the Opposition did not trust the
"You are up to something, to pull a stunt like
this. You have an impeccable track record of
deceit, of doing underhand stuff."
Hamel-Smith asked him to withdraw that
statement, which he did.
Henry disputed Finance Minister Larry
Howai s boast in his contribution earlier that
there had been four convictions for dishonest
financial transactions. Henry said none had any
real relation to money laundering.
"There has never been any significant activity
in cornering somebody for money laundering.
We are still awaiting some real action. No one
has ever been convicted, and the amendments
will be of no use if not put into action.
"It doesn t matter even if you pass good leg-
islation, which we doubt this one is."
Henry said the Financial Intelligence Unit
was understaffed and overworked and had to
hand over documents to the Financial Inves-
He wanted to know if the bill had been scru-
tinised by the Director of Public Prosecutions,
the person responsible for laying charges.
Protest continues outside
Senate over election bill
One of the protesters among the small group that picketed the Parliament building at
Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain, calling on senators not to support
the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
A group of around 30 people stood on the pavement on Wrightson Road, white
shirts matching the placards in their hands, as they faced drivers and pedestrians
with the message that they were not prepared to accept the bill.
No fanfare in
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