Saturday, February 17, 2018

PM: No Indian takeover


Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Mark Fraser

The controversial run-off provision of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 will not allow Indians to take over the country, says Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Speaking at the United National Congress (UNC) Monday night forum at the Gasparillo Secondary School last night, Persad-Bissessar said  the run-off mechanism would not divide the country into a system of tribal voting but instead will unite the people.

Persad-Bissessar pointed out that this country’s population comprises of  35.4 per cent East Indian, 34.2 per cent Africans, 22.8 per cent Mixed, 6.2 per cent Undeclared and 1.4 per cent are the others (Chinese, White, Syrian, Lebanese etc). 

“Since  more than 51 per cent of votes is required to elect a majority, an MP would require more than the ethnic vote to win the seat,” said Persad-Bissessar.

She said: “If every single Indian voted for the UNC or the Partnership they could never get the majority required.” 

She said no one ethnic group on its own can win the required more than 50 per cent of the vote.

“They would have to unite with other groups. That is what the run-off really signifies. Majority rule with a mandate of unification instead of division,” said Persad-Bissessar.

She said Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s lack of support and fear of a run-off suggests that he believes he cannot unite people nor can he win the majority of the votes of the people.

Persad-Bissessar said  some  of the fears expressed about the run-off system suggest that another election would be undemocratic and would impose a restriction on the freedom of choice of the voter.

She said the individual’s right of choice to vote for a party or candidate of their choice is not restricted in any form or fashion and will remain unfettered. 

Instead, she said, the right of choice of the individual is in fact broadened by permitting the voter a second opportunity to vote in any instance where the electorate is unable to decide on a majority winner in any constituency. 

Persad-Bissessar said voters would have the opportunity to vote expanded, and not restricted, as they will have the chance to vote for a second time and may wish to change their minds or keep their original choice.

She said persons who did not vote on election day might decide to vote when the run-off election is held and who knows how that person would vote.

The Bill, which was passed in the House of Representatives on August 12 is scheduled to be debated in the Senate on August 26.