Protesters last night took up their positions outside the Parliament building, at the International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, in a last effort to halt today’s debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 in the Senate.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is expected to lead off the debate which starts at 1.30 p.m.
The support of at least one Independent Senator is required to pass the Bill.
At the all-night vigil last night, several groups including political party the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), the Joint Trade Union Movement and civil rights organisation Fixin’ T&T, again called for the consultations to be held on the second ballot run-off voting aspect of the bill, which they said was never done.
Fixin’ T&T head, Kirk Waithe, challenged Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communication Vasant Bharath, the Attorney General and the Prime Minister to prove that discussions were held with the population on run-off.
In a news release on Sunday, Bharath said expansive consultation with the people was held and this among other things formed the basis for the Government proceeding with measures to apply the run-off polls, two-term limit for the Prime Minister and the right of recall to the bill.
He drew reference to the results of a Government-commissioned poll provided “empirical data” to confirm the majority of citizens are in favour of the changes being proposed in the bill.
The poll showed that 54 per cent of the people interviewed supported the run-off aspect of the bill.
“We need them to show a thread of evidence where run-off was discussed in the public’s domain. We challenge them to show even an instant where even the word run-off was used in the public domain prior to August 4, 2014,” Waithe told the Express.
“We implore everyone, captain to cook, CEO to clerk, to join with other groups, organisations and citizens at the Waterfront outside our Parliament...until the debate ends. Mrs Persad-Bissessar’s brazen attempt to violate our vote must not be tolerated,” he added.
Waithe said his group remains optimistic that good sense would prevail today and that the “attempt by Government to violate our sacred constitutional right to vote will be forfeited.”
MSJ’s vigil began at 6 p.m. in the absence of political leader, David Abdulah who is out of the country.
But deputy political leader, Dr Roosevelt Williams said the MSJ maintains its position that it not only wants the debate on the bill to be postponed, but for the bill to be held back until the population is engaged in extensive consultation run-off, which never occurred before.
“The process has been wrong,” he said.
As to the Market and Opinion Research International (MORI) poll commissioned by Government, Williams said “no one knows where the truth lies regarding polls” as another poll done by Market, Facts & Opinions (MFO) exclusively for the Sunday Express showed that 85 per cent of the people interviewed wanted the debate to be stopped.
“Irrespective of what these polls are saying, and the polls do not agree with each other, there is merit in asking that there be sufficient time for the population to be consulted on this particular bill with respect to the run-off proposal,”Williams said.
Members of the Joint Trade Union Movement joined the MSJ’s vigil last night. Those in attendance included representatives of the Banking and General Workers’ Union, Communication Workers’ Union, Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, and the Amalgamated Workers’ Union.