Saturday, January 20, 2018

Hosein: Public confused over new constitutional reform proposals

BEFORE Government takes any further action regarding constitutional reform, it should have additional consultations, this time to educate the public on what the new Constitution will entail.

This according to Sahid Hosein, president of the Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce who said yesterday the public was confused about the new proposals.

On Monday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced in Parliament that should the new law be passed, there will be a two-year fixed term for the Prime Minister and fixed date for elections.

Citizens will also have the right to recall Members of Parliament, and a second ballot run-off voting system will be implemented.

The announcement has led to several groups speaking out against the proposals, including the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and Dr Merle Hodge, who was a member of the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC).

Hosein said yesterday while an amendment was needed, there was no need to rush to make changes.

He said: “The reform should be pulled back until there is proper consultation. I think it is important that you go back out to the country and inform them what you propose. We need to do things carefully. It is clear the public does not have a clear understanding of what is involved and therefore you need to go and explain and get further directive as to what the proposal entails in detail.”

Hosein said because many citizens voted based on ethnicity, the second ballot run-off voting could cause a greater ethnic divide.

“It also means that those who have a different view are not going to be represented in Parliament. Why do we want to institutionalise the two-party system and we all know how entrenched the ethnic voting is in this country?” he asked.

He said while the Chamber was in agreement with the right of recall, there will always be people who are unsatisfied with their MP’s performance and such an initiative could be more problematic.

Hosein also asked: “What happens if the government loses a vote of no confidence, how does the fixed date of election apply? Calling a snap election? How does that fit into the system?”