Saturday, February 17, 2018

PNM calls emergency meeting discuss proposal for constitutional changes

THE People’s National Movement (PNM) has called an emergency general council meeting at Balisier House in Port of Spain today to discuss the constitutional amendments proposed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi indicated this in a telephone interview yesterday in response to constitutional amendments proposed by Persad-Bissessar in the Lower House on Monday.

Speaking in Parliament, the Prime Minister said a Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 is being introduced which will propose a two-term limit for the office of the Prime Minister, a recall provision and a run-off poll in elections for the House of Representatives.

Al-Rawi said it is “beyond curious” that the Government should seek to table, debate and pass this legislation with “grossly inadequate time for contemplation of the ramifications”.

He said is an insult to the people of this country to spring this thing “out of the blue like that”.

“The PNM has called for an emergency general council of its members which would be held (today) following a meeting with the central executive of the party at 5 o’ clock at Balisier House,” Al-Rawi said.

“We will be considering the whole context and substance of the proposed amendments having seen it and heard about it for the first time ever in the Parliament at 1.30 p.m. (on Monday) when it was laid on the table,” he said.

Al-Rawi said six days is not enough time for such important amendments to be fleshed out.

Al-Rawi added: “The PNM’s position is that we will of course consider it soberly and if there are any mechanisms that we can support we will certainly be looking at that, but as it is being a political entity of 59 years vintage we have procedures that we must go through as a party because we do not represent ... those of us that sit in the parliamentary arm do not represent ourselves only, we must consult with the party as a wider whole and that is what the purpose of the meeting (today) will be.” 

He said Government’s decision to bring this matter for debate next Monday is a “flagrant breach” of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.

He said Standing Order 14 establishes a fixed recess or break for Parliament “where from the first week of July to after the first week of September you cannot sit in parliamentary session unless there is urgent and exceptional business”.

Standing Order 13 deals with how one makes something urgent and exceptional, Al-Rawi said.

“It is conspicuous that none of that was followed and that absolutely no regard to the Standing Orders was factored, so not only is the six-day period grossly inadequate for the kind of contemplation that we are considering, but the mere fact that they have completely ignored and committed a flagrant breach of the Standing Orders must stand as a serious red flag to the citizens of the country,” Al-Rawi said.

Al-Rawi said the People’s Partnership administration has brought this legislation on the eve of the general election scheduled for next year.