Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fixin’ T&T: Stop the debate

THE proposed Constitutional (Amendment) Bill is a direct attack on citizens’ rights to vote freely and therefore the debate scheduled for tomorrow should be postponed.

This is according to Kirk Waithe, president of the group Fixin’ T&T. 

Waithe along with a small group of persons protested with placards outside Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s private residence in Phillipine late yesterday evening.

The group was later opposed by some UNC supporters including chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation Premchand Sookoo.

Waithe said the amendment proposed by Persad-Bissessar on Monday in Parliament “is by far the most dangerous and worse assault that has ever been attempted on our Constitution and our people”.

Despite opposition from several people and groups to have the debate tomorrow, Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar had said there will be no stopping the debate.

On Monday, Persad-Bissessar listed new changes to the Bill which included a two-year fixed term for prime ministers, the right of recall for members of Parliament, a second ballot run-off voting system and  a fixed date for election.

Organisations and people opposing the new changes have the most problem with the second ballot run-off system which they said would give precedence to the two main political parties the United National Congress and the People’s National Movement (PNM).

Waithe said: “The debate for the constitutional amendment on Monday must be postponed. The run-off aspect to what is being proposed is undemocratic, a direct contradiction to anything representing proportional representation. This is a direct attack on our ability to vote freely.”

 He said during the numerous public consultations concerning Constitutional Reform, there had been no consultation on the second ballot run-off voting system.

“Nowhere in any of the Constitutional Reform documentation that was available for public consumption will you find any suggestion of run-off,” he said.

Waithe also said members of the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) “were hijacked and deceived by the government on this issue”.

Member of the CRC Dr Merle Hodge had also called for a postponement  of the debate saying the run-off proposal  was the most controversial aspect of the bill and was not featured in the CRC’s report nor in the People’s Partnership manifesto.

Waithe said protests will continue today and tomorrow at various locations.