Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hinds comes to protesters’ defence

Govt, Independent senators criticise ‘hooligan behaviour’ outside Parliament

Temporary People’s National Movement (PNM) Senator Fitzge­rald Hinds came to the defence of the protesters, in the face of criticism from both Government and Independent senators.

Independent senators had expressed dismay they were booed and jeered by protesters outside the Parliament building, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, during the last three days when debate was taking place on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2014.

 Some Government senators, such as Senator Raziah Ahmed, des­cribed it as “hooligan behaviour”.

However, Hinds, who was appoin­ted to replace Camille Robinson-Regis, who left the country yesterday morning, said the Constitution was the “people’s law”, not “lawyers’ law”, and the people were entitled to express their views on it.

He said while Government and Opposition senators were aligned to political parties, “Independent senators were politicians for all of the country”.

“So it should be no surprise to Sen­ator (Dhanayshar) Mahabir when the public expresses its emotions in the way it has over the last few days. 

“Because I heard Senator (Anthony) Vieira said good government deserves, if I am quoting him right, or embraces and accepts a few bad MPs. So if you have a few citizens booing or expressing their emotion,  that shouldn’t surprise us too badly. I will not encourage them to do that because civility and good behaviour demands otherwise.”

Hinds said when he heard about the run-off proposal, he said to himself this was a serious issue. He added he told one of his colleagues the people of Trinidad and Tobago are entitled to express themselves, even emotively, on this matter.

 “Because this is a serious situation. This is no game. That thing called the Constitution affects all of our lives,” he said. 

He said once people confined themselves to lawful behaviour, they were entitled to express themselves. He noted even the great Mahatma Gandhi refused to accept an unjust law.

Hinds also criticised the treatment meted out to the protesters on the first day of the debate on Tuesday.

“Imagine the people are outside the Parliament expressing themselves democratically, as they must. There were barriers put for them, and the next thing I read on the paper, all of a sudden, the police got instructions from somebody...and all of a sudden, start to push the people away and a little row broke out. Like we are losing our rights. Like we are becoming a banana republic,” he said.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan shouted across the floor that Hinds was protecting and encoura­ging the kind of behaviour exhibited by the protesters.