Wednesday, January 24, 2018

No House vote for Tobago Bill

...will go to Joint Select Committee

The Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill, 2013 will not be put to a vote when the House meets to debate it tomorrow. It would instead be sent to a Joint Select Committee (JSC).

Government leader Roodal Moonilal confirmed yesterday that the bill would be sent to the JSC so that wider discussion and consultation can take place.

“Dr Rowley can use this opportunity to raise his concerns,” Moonilal told the Express via text. The bill however is expected to be debated first.

Yesterday Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley reiterated that the PNM would not be supporting bill. “We are parliamentarians. We have been called out and we going to Parliament to engage in a marathon debate...But what they have done is unacceptable. And we are not encouraging the United National Congress (UNC) in its nonsense.

“If you want to amend the Constitution there are ways and means of doing so. But they want to go and amend the Constitution as part of their election campaign,” Rowley said.

He added that what Government was doing was a “vulgarity”. He said the people of Tobago must be involved in the process.

The Bill has to receive the support of 32 out of the 41 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the elected House. Since Government has a total of 29 MPs, it needs the support of at least three Opposition MPs.

However, the Government needs just a simple majority to send the Bill to a JSC. The JSC can then study the Bill, make amendments and send it back to the House which would then have to debate it and take a final vote.

According to its explanatory note, the bill seeks to amend the Constitution to enhance the legislative and executive powers of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) with a view to promoting the internal self-government of Tobago. Among other things the bill would grant the THA the power to make laws for areas of governance under its jurisdiction and for the peace, order and good government of Tobago, so long as the laws are not inconsistent with a law made by the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament.

The Bill provides for Parliament, after consultation with the THA, to make laws for Tobago that require a special majority of both Houses of Parliament.