Friday, January 19, 2018

It’s all about holding on to power

For the first time since I helped vote in the People’s Partnership to power in 2010, I have become deeply suspicious and worried about the motives of this Kamla Persad-Bissesar-led Government.

I, like many, many thousands of voters, tired of the base appeals to race and ethnicity when election time comes around, saw the Partnership as the beginning of, potentially, truly representative government — a government for all. Not a government by and for the People’s National Movement its supporters and financiers or a government by and for the United National Congress its supporters and financiers.

Consequently, through my rose-tinted glasses, I viewed all the now well-known missteps of the Government — the Section 34 fiasco, the now infamous Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) Bill and The Judges Salaries and Pensions (Amendment) Bill and the revolving door for disgraced and/or incompetent ministers as the learning pains of an administration new to the exercise of power.

I was prepared to cut them some slack since, after all, I thought they meant well and if they really messed up then the electorate could toss them out at the next election.

Now I am not so sure. In fact now I am convinced that the Partnership, having read the political tea leaves, has taken a decision to do whatever it will take to manipulate the electoral system with a view to remaining in power.

I have reached this conclusion because, having read all the published statements and comments on the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill by the PM, the Attorney General, the leader of the Congress of the People Mr Ramadhar, and the Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives Mr Moonilal, it is clear that they are all using the Constitution Reform Commission as a fig leaf to cover their naked political strategy to maintain their hold on power by any means possible.

I say this because, as a firm supporter of an appropriate form of proportional representation as the best electoral option for this country, I cannot see how the PM can seriously argue, and be supported, that the proposed 50 per cent target and run-off vote will serve to increase citizen participation and strengthen our democracy.

It will have precisely the opposite effect. The proposed amendment to the electoral system will in fact consolidate the position where the supporters of the two major political parties will continue to determine the composition of future governments ad nauseam. The tens of thousands of minority voters will be effectively shut out of any say in how this country is governed. Only the majority will. How is that going to increase participation in our democracy?

Why take the chance that I, and many others like me, may be correct and press on “irregardless” as Mr Ramadhar proposes? Why the rush on this fundamental change to the way we elect our representatives? What is the nature of the crisis that this country faces that requires this change at this time?

The truth is there is no national crisis that requires urgent change in our political system. What is clear however is that the Partnership Government is in the fourth year of failing administration and general elections are due in less than a year’s time!

Ashton S Brereton

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