It is “crystal clear” that the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago gives to the President the right to veto legislation passed by both Houses of Parliament, former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj stated yesterday.
Speaking at a news conference, Maharaj said the President must exercise “fairly and not arbitrarily” his discretion to assent or to withhold assent of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill. “He (the President) has a duty to engage the population in consultation. He must consider that this was an amendment to the Constitution in respect of which the population was not consulted,” Maharaj stated.
Maharaj said Section 61 (2) of the Constitution provides that “when a Bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall signify that he assents or that he withholds assent”.
“The President therefore has to have extensive discussions and consultations with individuals and groups in order to properly exercise his discretion whether he should assent to the Bill or veto it,” he said. “If grounds exist for the President to withhold his assent to a Bill, but the President proceeds under an error of law to assent to the Bill, the actions of the President can be challenged in the Supreme Court and be reviewed by the Court on well established principles of public law,” he added.
However Maharaj stressed that the first battle that must be fought is the people’s battle against the government. “The people must resort to the Court as a last resort,” he said.