Saturday, December 16, 2017

Only one voice against the bill

Debate at UWI seminar

Chairperson of the Constitution Reform Forum (CRF), Olabisi Kuboni, was the lone voice yesterday at a UWI seminar on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill advocating that the bill must not be made law.

UWI Constitutional Affairs and Parliamentary Studies Unit hosted a seminar at the faculty of Social Sciences  where Kuboni spoke as well as Dr Hamid Ghany, member of the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC); Nigel Henry of Solution by Simulation and Dr Bishnu Ragoonath, Head of UWI’s department of Political Science.

Before diving into her presentation, Kuboni warned she will not be advocating for the bill as the other speakers.

“I would just like to warn everybody, don’t be enraged as I am going along, as a citizen, I have to be partisan,” she said.

“The CRF is taking the position that the debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2014 must be stopped. It must not become law. We are saying this not only because of the flaws in the bill itself, but more importantly the proposed amendments strike at the heart of Constitution making in our country in a way that can seriously undermine our collective efforts to reshape our Constitution,” said Kuboni.

She said the diversity of this country’s population has been used against the people.

“It has been manipulated to serve the interest of an elite minority whose primary concern has not been the people’s well-being but the minority’s ability to hold on to power,” she said.

“The winner-take-all rigid racially divided party system has taken root with aid of the first-past-the-post system putting Africans against Indians and Indians against Africans and in the process fostering the emergence of voices of distrust, distortion, coded language and misinformation,” said Kuboni.

She said there was need to minimise the dominance of the first-past-the- post method and seek a constitutional arrangement that would enhance the Constitution.

Noting the arguments of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Government members who said the run-off vote will allow a majority rule, she said:

“Majority rule for whose benefit? It certainly cannot be for the electorate to be forced in a situation where they must choose between two candidates that they had no intention of voting for in the first place.”

She said the racial divide will be further entrenched, making it virtually impossible for a wider set of interests to emerge in a plural society.

Kuboni said the action taken with respect to moving to pass the amendments with a simple majority undermines the fundamental truth that the Constitution is the supreme law.

She said use of a simple majority to pass the amendment is a loophole in the Constitution that is being exploited.