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Dookeran, Seepersad-Bachan vote against; Samuel abstains

By \\\\\ Kim Boodram

DIFFERENCES of opinion are commonplace in what Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday described as a “healthy” political environment that he said is encouraged by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The AG’s comments follow a lack of support from three members of Government for the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014, which was passed in the Parliament early yesterday morning, following a marathon debate in the House.

Tunapuna MP Winston Dookeran and San Fernando West MP, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, both members of the Congress of the People, a coalition party in the People’s Partnership, voted against the bill.

 Arima COP MP, Rodger Samuel, abstained when called on to vote.

Persad-Bissessar had already removed the whip from her Cabinet, giving MPs clearance to vote according to conscience.

Ramlogan, during a press conference yesterday to address the case of the State versus the former board of the Evolving Technologies  and Enterprise Development Limited (E-Teck), a State agency, was asked to comment on the fractured voting.

Labelling the PM’s actions prior to the debate as “outstanding”, Ramlogan said yesterday’s voting pattern was a healthy sign for the country’s democracy.

“We often disagree,” Ramlogan said.

He said differences of opinion could sometimes be a weekly occurrence at Cabinet meetings and healthy debate and the airing of concerns were encouraged by the PM.

Ramlogan said Persad-Bissessar had also not been obliged to release her MPs of  the  doctrine of collective responsibility.

In the midst of protests from the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) and parts of civil society, the passing of the bill brings historic changes to local politics.

The bill allows for the right to recall for MPs, a second   run-off vote at general and by-elections and imposes a two-term limit on prime ministerial service.

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