IF the country does not monitor campaign financing, then we will have politicians "dancing like puppets on a string" to their financiers. This was one of the comments from the floor during the third meeting of the National Consultation on Constitutional Reform on Saturday at the Arima Town Hall.
One attendee suggested a body to oversee campaign financing. He explained this body should regulate how much a party or candidate can receive from a particular individual or organisation. He said, "We cannot deal with crime unless we address the things happening behind the scenes."
He also called for the media to be free from political influence and intimidation, financial or otherwise, and they should be held accountable for broadcasting erroneous information.
One attendee said the role of the President was that of a "yes man" and gave the example of his role in the Section 34 debacle which "blighted Independence celebrations".
Later, another attendee also commented on the Section 34 issue, questioning why there was a Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Attorney General was responsible for legal affairs. He also questioned why there was both a Public Utilities Ministry and a Ministry of Water Resources as water is a public utility.
"Is it to create a ministry to give a next big boy a job?" he asked rhetorically.
He suggested the Constitution should specifically state what Cabinet ministries there should be and their particular roles.
"Otherwise we have ministries created for ministry sake," he said.
Chairman of the Dr Eric Williams Memorial Committee, Reginald Vidale, suggested that if the people were dissatisfied with a Member of Parliament halfway through an administration's five-year term they should be recalled.
He said in the case of the Government there should be a national referendum determining whether they should be allowed to continue their term or hold new elections.
"Let us as a people determine by way of performance whether they continue or cease."
Vidale also suggested the President and the Speaker of the House should be elected by the people.
"People need to have more say in who runs the country," he stressed.
Shaun Mahase said that citizens should be able to vote for the Prime Minister and their local representative.
Another suggestion from the floor was for MPs to take bills to their constituents and discuss it with them and then present those views to Parliament.
Another attendee, George Wilson, said he disagreed with the idea of recall, noting that the administration in power can "starve" Opposition MPs of resources and then get their supporters to sign a petition.
And someone commented that the right to recall is placed in the Constitution there will be a by-election "every Monday morning" and described it as a "foolish idea".
He also said the Cabinet should not be more than 50 per cent of the Lower House. "If not they will stretch it and the whole country will be Cabinet just now," he quipped.
Opposition Senator and former Arima MP Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, who said she was speaking on her own behalf, noted there was need to include accountability in the Constitution.
She said there is no time limit for State agencies to report their accounts and no penalty for not reporting at all. She explained that some accounts were sent a decade late or more and when the Public Accounts Committee receives them the board members had already left.
"I think where our country has fallen down is failure to report," she commented.
Beckles-Robinson also questioned why citizens had to line up at 2 a.m. to get a pension cheque or get help with housing from an MP.
"We have to put systems in place where politicians do not have that power," she stressed.
She also noted that there needed to be land set aside for agriculture, and no administration, past or present, should be using the best agricultural land "to plant houses".