Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar yesterday praised Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for saying that Government members can vote by conscience and not by collective Cabinet responsibility as it relates to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2014.
In his own contribution to the debate, the Legal Affairs Minister said the Prime Minister created history and also recognised the concerns of his party.
On Sunday, following the COP executive meeting, Ramadhar said party members were of the view that the vote on the controversial legislation should be delayed.
The debate kicked off yesterday with a smooth flow as Parliamentarians now have shorter speaking times (45 minutes) to make their points.
“The Prime Minister knowing full well that the party I represent had a view that has been publicised and communicated with, today, I do not know if the history of Trinidad and Tobago would reflect a Prime Minister taking a bold step, it is bold, it is audacious and it is to be welcomed, to free her members of Cabinet to exercise a conscience vote in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago,” said Ramadhar.
“So how you voting?” asked Opposition chief whip Marlene McDonald.
“We will deal with the vote when that time comes,” said Ramadhar.
The Minister reiterated that third parties will not be destroyed under the proposed amendment and in fact will be more empowered.
“Everybody speaks of the death of third parties, this is an enlightenment of democracy, this is putting flesh on all that we speak about, about participatory governance, but they demonise it, you know why? What we have seen from the other side is that they want to return to what we call gatekeeping politics where the fear factor is a split vote,” said Ramadhar.
He said the Opposition PNM wants to nip this move to constitutional reform early.
“Demonise the first effort for constitutional reform, say that it is wrong...stop the vote, so that it would be just an effort of failure again so we would not get to vote on this and it should go into abeyance and once again the Constitution shall not be improved upon,” said Ramadhar.
Ramadhar said nobody is going to stop the reform from taking place.