Thursday, December 14, 2017

...PNM reveals its 10 Constitution amendments

 The People’s National Movement (PNM) has a list of ten amendments to the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.

This was disclosed yesterday by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at a news conference at Balisier House, Port of Spain, to discuss the outcome of the party’s Special General Council meeting on Wednesday.

Among the amendments are the establishment of the post of a Deputy Prime Minister; a standard Cabinet size, including the number of senators who can be appointed as ministers; an amendment to how the President is elected; and internal self-government for Tobago. 

Rowley said the party’s Constitution committee, which has been working for the past year, listed the ten sections of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago which need to be exa­mined.

The committee is chaired by Opposition Senator Camille Robinson-Regis and includes three former attorneys general—John Jeremie, Glenda Morean-Phillip and Bridgid Annisette-George.

Rowley said the amendments would have “the effect of strengthening and making the Parliament effective, reducing prime ministerial power and reducing Cabinet dictatorship”.

“If those changes are made, we believe that significant improvements will come with respect to the governance of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and these changes are based not by any desire to win an election that is imminent but treating with the experiences that we have had,” he said.

“So any amendment to the Constitution is driven by an experience which tells us that what we have is not satis­factory or is not working or requires expansion in some way, and we are addressing that.

“That is how the PNM has approached the question of reform of the Constitution, and now that the Government is going to the Parliament to do this, we draw to the attention of the population that the Government’s behaviour in 2014 during this vacation period is no way addressing the problems as faced by the country. It is seeking to address a problem as faced by the party, as faced by the Cabinet, as faced by the incumbent, and that problem they are facing is imminent defeat at the polls,” Rowley said.

Rowley said several of the Opposition members of Parliament were on vacation and had to be recalled to attend Monday’s sitting of the Lower House. 

 n The PNM’s proposed 10 amendments

1. Full-time parliamenta­rians—Section 39, which establishes the Parliament; however it does not indicate whether parliamentarians are full-time or part-time. 

2. Campaign finance reform—amendments must be made to the Representation of the People Act-OAS Model. 

3. Parliamentary committees—main objective to increase powers, Section 66 A.

4. Size of the Cabinet—Section 75; Section 76 (3). 

5. Powers of the President—include mechanism for relection, Chapter 3.  

6. Caribbean Court of Justice—Section 109 entrenched (3/4 House of Representatives, 2/3 Senate) 

7. Self-government for Tobago—Chapter 11A. However, the THA Act will also have to receive as the Constitution just establishes the Assembly powers, etc, are in the act. 

8. Prime Minister (acting appointments)—Section 78 (1). 

9. Municipal corporations—This has to be dealt with through the Municipal Corporations Act.

10. Limits on the number of senators appointed as ministers—Section 75 (2); Section 76 (3); Section 79 (1).