greater harmony: Suruj Rambachan
Rambachan: PR to benefit PNM too
Ria Taitt Political Editor
Government has received the support necessary to institute a partial system of proportional representation.
Debate on the Municipation Corporation Amendment bill, which introduces proportional representation in the selection of aldermen, began in the Senate on Tuesday, and ended in the wee hours of yesterday morning.
With 15 votes in the Senate, Government needed just one vote from the Independent Senators to get the simple majority required to approve the bill.
Independent Senators Subhas Ramkhelawan and Helen Drayton had on Tuesday indicated their general support for the measure.
Drayton said she was inclined to support proportional representation because it was a fairer system given the make up of this society. “I am also inclined to support the bill, which I am viewing as a pilot. Caution is the order of the day. If the implementation and if what eventually happens at the level (of local government), which in our society opens the door for greater division and bacchanal than what obtains right now in local government, this bill could compound it. And that is what I am cautioning about, that while we must look at other societies, we are a unique society and we have a penchant for bacchanal,” she said.
In piloting the bill, Minister of Works and Infrastructure Suruj Rambachan said the population was searching for systems of government that reduced marginalisation, particularly the marginalisation of minority groups. People wanted systems of government that integrate the electorate into the affairs of state, he said. Rambachan said proportional representation would achieve this objective.
The bill, he said, will create greater harmony in this “divisive society”.
“Will the bill reduce marginalisation? Rambachan asked.
“Yes! “Government members chorused.
“Will the proposed system encourage greater voter turnout and deeper involvement of people in the affairs of the communities?” the Minister asked.
“Yes!” was the refrain.
“Is it capable of being understood by voters?” he asked again.
“Yes!” was the response.
“Is it for the national good?” was Rambachan’s question. Once again the answer was in the affirmative.
Rambachan said the system would benefit the Opposition Peoples National Movement (PNM). He cited the case of the San Fernando Corporation. In the last local government election, some 21,990 votes were cast- the UNC received 6,439, the Congress of the People- 5,366 and the PNM- 10,194.
Rambachan said under the proposed system, the PNM would have received two of the four aldermen, with the UNC obtaining the two aldermen, as opposed to the current system, where the UNC/COP has four aldermen and the PNM none.
According to Rambachan, more citizens wanted to be empowered and to have a sense of control over their destiny, and to share in decision-making process.
“As we step into the next 50 years of our life as an independent nation, this historic and landmark debate will be remembered by those celebrating our 100th anniversary of independence as a political game-changer,” the Minister stated.
On the Opposition statements that the population should not trust the Government, Rambachan said the Government’s record gave the lie to that statement. He said there was growth in the economy of the last four quarters, 12 months cover for imports and that there was a combined cache of $95 billion in the Heritage Stabilisation Fund and the Foreign Exchange reserves.
Rambachan said this Government has faced more aggressive journalism than any other administration. But he said if in forging a better governance structure this Government had to subject itself to greater scrutiny than previous administrations, it was prepared to do so.