‘...Hare-brained scheme from a bazodee govt’
Proportional representation only became a Government priority after the “greenwash” in Chaguanas West, Diego Martin Central MP Amery Browne said last Friday.
Speaking in the early hours of the morning in the House of Representatives on the Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Bill (which seeks to introduce proportional representation in the selection of aldermen for local government bodies), Browne said: “This bill has nothing to do with caring for anyone. It has to do with Government having a toehold in these corporations.”
Browne said local government reform was not part of the consultations on constitution reform. Furthermore, he said, he looked at every media report on local government reform from May 29, 2010, to August, 20, 2013, and there was not “one single passing reference” to the use of proportional representation for the selection of aldermen in this election.
Yet the Government wanted to tell the Parliament it had consulted with the wider population on this “tectonic change”.
“There has been no consultation on these measures,” Browne said. “We have had 121 sittings (of the House of Representatives since May 24, 2010), and no passing mention of PR in any debate or bill,” he said.
Citing statements by Public Administration Minister and chairman of the Congress of the People Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan the COP was consulted on the issue last Wednesday, Browne said Government did not even consult its own coalition partner on the measure until one week ago.
Earlier, Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert said Government “came up with this hare-brained scheme” because it was still “bazodee” with the licks it got in its heartland of Chaguanas West. He said the ruling coalition would have a problem winning a single seat in the Chaguanas Corporation. It would get wiped out in the Diego Martin Regional Corporation as well.
Imbert wanted to know who was the mathematical genius who came up with the “magical” number of having four aldermen in every corporation despite the disparity in the size of the electorate in each corporation. He said [there were] 30,000 electors in districts which comprised the Port of Spain Corporation, 49,000 electors in the districts comprising the San Fernando Corporation, 26,000 electors in the Arima borough, 16,000 electors in the Point Fortin borough, 61,000 electors in the Chaguanas borough, 37,000 electors in Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo region, 85,000 electors in the Diego Martin region, 27,000 electors in the Mayaro/Rio Claro region, 72,000 electors in the Penal/Debe region, 74,000 electors in the Princes Town region, 52,000 electors in the Sangre Grande region, 133,000 electors in the San Juan/Laventille region, 68,000 electors in the Siparia region and 162,000 electors in the Tunapuna/Piarco region.
Yet, Imbert noted, according to the bill, each one of these local government districts would have four aldermen. “Where is the proportionality in this system of proportional representation?” he asked.
Imbert said the system being proposed by the Government was a “half-picked duck”, “a Mickey Mouse foolishness which gave no choice to the electorate”.
He said out of a list of 15 names submitted by a party for aldermen, the winning party would still choose which two or three of the 15 people whose names were submitted by that party (before the local government election for possible selection as aldermen) would be selected as aldermen (after the local government election). “Is that reform?” he asked.
Imbert said the proposed system would use the “largest remainder approach” in the allocation of aldermen. He explained how the system would work. He said if, for example, there are 24,000 votes in a corporation, it would mean “four aldermen would deliver a quota of 6,000 votes per alderman”. “Assume that one party gets 18,000 votes and another 6,000 votes, then one party gets three aldermen and the other party one. “However, if the number of votes are not divisible by six, the aldermen would be allocated on the multiples of the quota—for instance if a party gets 15,000 votes, the party would receive two aldermen, 6,000 votes multiplied by two (amounting to 12,000). That would leave a remainder of 3,000. In selecting the third aldermen, you would look to see who got 3,000 votes or more (to make up the quota of 6,000) and that party would get the third alderman. And if another a party gets more than 3,000 votes they would get the fourth alderman.
So you can have a four-party scenario with a party getting just over six per cent of the vote getting the fourth alderman. Or a three-party scenario with a party getting just about eight per cent of the vote getting the fourth alderman. Is this what the population wants?” he asked.
Imbert slammed Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar for saying the system of proportional representation would be “unleashed” by the Government on the Opposition. “Is proportional representation [a] pitbull?” Imbert asked.
Imbert said Rambachan should be ashamed of himself. He said he repeatedly asked the minister to build one retaining wall at the home of one of our sporting heroes who is a constituent of his (Imbert). “The boy come and win a gold medal,” Imbert said. During his contribution, Imbert again digressed to congratulated Jehue Gordon on securing his second gold medal.
Imbert said Rambachan did not explain the bill.