Friday, January 19, 2018

Prakash: Bill will improve democracy


PROTEST: Protesters gather outside the Parliament Building at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, early yesterday morning during the winding up of the debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill which was passed. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

Mark Fraser

 CONGRESS of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar said yesterday his conscience is clear after voting in favour of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014, which was passed in Parliament yesterday morning.

Ramadhar’s fellow party members, COP founder and Tunapuna MP Winston Dookeran and San Fernando West MP, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, voted against the bill.

Dookeran, who sat beside Ramadhar during the marathon debate, had stated in his    contribution that some aspects of the bill were “dangerous”.

The bill brings to the political landscape hefty changes, including the introduction of the right to recall for MPs, a run-off or second vote option at general and by-elections and a two-term limit for prime ministers.

Ramadhar said yesterday Dookeran had exercised his right to vote according to his conscience, as did he, Ramadhar.

Speaking at the Freeman Road Community Centre, St Augustine, where he distributed books and stationery to children ahead of the new school term, Ramadhar said he, too, can make and has made “grandiose” speeches but that his vote was, at the end of the day, for the sake of democracy.

Ramadhar had last Sunday disclosed that concerns about the bill had surfaced at a COP meeting on the matter and that his party, a member of the coalition People’s Partnership Government, was in favour of the vote being delayed.

Responding to media questions yesterday, he said many were of the view that the run-off was something this country was not yet ready for. 

While he confessed a need to take more information on the changes to the public he said his decision was based on the premise of improving democracy. 

While the “run-off” concept is a poor substitute for proportional representation, he said it was better to fill that void with the run-off process as the only available option.

Ramadhar said the COP is about open democracy where different views could be expressed. 

He said he exercised his right in the Parliament and had thought “logically” about the bill before making a decision.