Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan said that he admires Jack Warner for resigning his seat and facing the polls and, on principle, Herbert Volney should do the same with respect to St Joseph.
Without calling any names, Ramkhelawan touched on the topical issue during his contribution to the Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Bill, 2013 at the Senate sitting at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, on Tuesday.
Following the 2013-2014 budget presentation on Monday, House Speaker Wade Mark declared that Herbert Volney resigned from the United National Congress (UNC), on whose ticket he was elected as MP.
Volney has 14 days to legally challenge the Speaker before the seat becomes vacant.
Ramkhelawan said in the electoral system, some people are voted into office and then look to “break ranks” and change allegiances.
“Some would argue maybe they have received a little change, some would argue that maybe they’ve had a change of heart, whatever the reason for changing the question is, is it proper, is it correct that somebody who was voted on a particular ticket decides to change his or her mind, and in so doing does not do the honourable thing and resign from the party and face the polls again?” Ramkhelawan pointed out.
Noting the issue with Volney in the Parliament on Monday, he said: “What is right in my view is if you stand before the people who are willing to elect you and you say that you belong to a particular party and it is that party that is promoting you and you are supposed to be promoting the philosophy of that party and the tenets of that party, how do you suddenly walk away and say I am my own man when you are riding on the back of that particular party.”
He said if a person chooses to go against a party’s philosophy he should resign and face the polls and let the people decide what they want.
Ramkhelawan said this is why he admired the action “of an MP of recent vintage and current vintage” (Warner) who walked away from party and faced the court of public opinion.
He said a person should let the people decide whether they want his philosophy as this was what democracy was about.
“It must not be a dictatorship of those on high, it must be a dictatorship of the people from below coming right up,” said Ramkhelawan.
Speaking on the issue of proportional representation, Ramkhelawan pledged his full support for it, saying that the first past the post system had failed this country.
He noted that in 1981 the Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR) came to the fore and contested the elections, winning 22 per cent of the votes, yet was unable to get a seat.
He said further that in 1991 the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) got 127,000 votes, which constituted 24 per cent of the population, and they only won the two seats in Tobago.
Ramkhelawan said under proportional representation, the NAR could have gotten some nine seats.
He pointed out that as recent as 2007 the Congress of the People (COP) got 148,000 votes in the general election and was unable to secure any seats.
“It means there is not a voice for one-fifth of our people; that cannot be right and that is inexcusable, and if we get to a point of equality of votes under proportional representation, I am prepared to accept that rather than be prepared to accept a first past the post system where 22 per cent is not even heard.
“As far as I am concerned, I am a strong believer and I am a strong supporter of proportional representation in its purest form, or in some form which will be managed to the satisfaction of our voters and electorate,” said Ramkhelawan.