voicing concerns: Eric Esdelle, standing, from Carapichaima, makes his contribution during the National Consultation on Constitutional Reform on Wednesday evening, at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, Main Road, Chaguanas. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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Fears of gay acceptance take over reform talks

By Kim Boodram

FEAR of what the legal accep­tance of homosexuality could mean for the society was the dominant conver­sation in Cha­guanas at Wednesday night’s pub­lic consultation on the draft constitutional reform report.
Most of the citizens taking the microphone at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation auditorium were concerned that giving legitimacy of marriage to persons other than hete­rosexuals or decriminalising homosexuality and sodomy could lead to other “deviant” groups looking for similar provisions in the law.
The worry came on the heels of a statement on Monday, at the first session of this year’s consultations, by Catholic priest Dr Fr Stephen Geofroy, in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.
Geofroy’s statement that the matter should not be debated further and Government should embrace all its people stirred a hornet’s nest among the religious faithful who came out on Wednesday.
Most of them who said the accep­tance of homosexuality will lead to a breakdown in morality and possibly open a gateway for sexual predators to molest more children.
Persons from several Christian sects and the Muslim community voiced their disap­pro­-
val for any consideration given to allowing same-sex marriage, with Imam Iqbal Hy­der saying it could mean less suitors for women.
Hyder, who is also a marriage officer, said it was a reality that many women look to marriage for financial security and if the pool of marriageable men shrinks further in the country, then women should be allowed to enter into polygamous marriages.
While the sexual orientation discussion dominated the night’s proceedings, some persons voiced their concern over the current political system, including the tenure of politicians in office, the role of the Integrity Commission and the number of State agencies.
Afzal Mohammed from Freeport proposed that the new Con­stitution consider the political manifesto as a legal document, thereby an obligation for political parties to stand by their promises.
“Promises are made in these man­i­festos that never materialise,” Mohammed said.
“If it is made a legal document, then the party can be taken to court for the failure to deliver,” he added.
Mohammed’s suggestion was met with approval by the audience, which was not as thick as the crowd at Monday’s forum.
Engineer Kwesi Prescod also raised his concern that not enough was being said about “what does not work” in the current Constitution and what the proposed amendments are meant to fix.
“How will this change the status quo?” Prescod asked.
Making his contribution, Eric Esdelle raised a number of concerns.
With regard to the Integrity Commission (IC), Esdelle said the commission should be free to investigate any citizen or company in the country, without public protest. The only form of acceptable protest should be in written form to the commission, Esdelle said.
The IC must then, by law, respond and acknowledge receipt, he added.
Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC), Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, responding to a concern over the continuity of the reform process should the current Government leave office before the process is complete, stated: “Every effort will be made for the Constitution to be ready in this term.”
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