Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Maharaj: No democracy when 41 people can trump 1.3 million

Sunday Express columnist and managing director of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies, Sunity Maharaj, has said “democracy is a fallacy when 1.3 million people can say ‘no’ in a democracy and 41 people can say ‘yes’ and prevail”.

She was making refe­rence to ongoing debate in Parliament over whether $3 billion in pensions should be awarded to both Government and Opposition politicians.

To date, the matter has been referred to a Senate select committee by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissess­ar.

Occasion was the second day of The Trini­dad and Tobago Judicial Education Institute Fourth Distinguished Jurist Lecture 2014, The Yin and Yang of Commonwealth Carib­bean Constitutional Social Democracy, Change for Stability and Progress, at the Convocation Hall, Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, on Friday.

The event featured a panel discussion.

Among those present were Dr Leighton Jackson, deputy dean Undergraduate Affairs at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, and the 2014 feature speaker and moderator Justice Peter Jamadar. Jackson had delivered the feature address at the opening of the event on Thursday evening. (See Page 16.)

Other panellists were Ria Mohammed-Davidson, Judicial Court of Justice at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Senator/attorney Anthony Vieira and vicar for the local clergy Fr Clyde Harvey. Other attendees included were Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith, senior counsel Israel Khan and a battery of prominent jurists and attorneys.

During her contribution, Maharaj said: “Where 1.3 million people say ‘no’ in a social democracy where everyone has a say, and the ‘41’ can prevail, then you know you don’t have democracy. We have not achieved a state of participatory democracy. What we have is the Westminster variant. It is really a consequence of the autocratic, centralised system. It has mutated over time to protect itself. But the system of centralised power still remains.”

Sharing her sentiments on Caribbean coups, Maharaj added: “The fundamental nature of the Caribbean society is revolutionary. When you wake up and hear there is a coup, that is not an abnormali­ty.

“But it is a natural consequence of a system of governance that does not provide effective institutions for a functional democracy. When the system does not work to represent people, people will force it.

“They will get representation or represent themselves, sometimes by force.”

Mohammed-Davidson said democracy should strive for equa­lity and strive to include the special needs of differently-abled people.

Harvey said talk-shows have a tendency to take opinions and convert them into facts. Viera compiled examples of yin and yang from Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching (excerpts) for the pamphlet. An excerpt said: “All life embodies yin and embraces yang, through their union achieving harmony.”