Tuesday, February 20, 2018

'We can go ahead without a Minority Leader'


Inauguration tomorrow: Orville London

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The absence of a Minority Leader of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will not stop the inauguration of the new executive tomorrow at the THA's Assembly Hall.

This is according to leader of the People's National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council Orville London, who said he has been in discussion with President George Maxwell Richards about this unprecedented situation in the THA, in which there is no official opposition.

He said he was advised the Assembly can be convened.

"On Thursday, the position of Minority Leader will be declared vacant," he said, adding that the minority councillor will also not be appointed.

London said for the first time the assembly will have to function with 15 members instead of the customary 16 members.

London indicated he would support a motion in the Parliament indicating "in the case there is no Minority Leader, the President would be authorised to appoint two councillors of the Assembly". He also said he is prepared to indicate this to the Prime Minister in a letter.

He said the THA would, however, be formally convened tomorrow, and the secretaries would be sworn in on Friday at President's House in Tobago.

Already concerns are being expressed about a lack of Opposition voices in the THA following Monday's clean sweep of the 12 seats in the election by the PNM.

This situation has not gone unnoticed by PNM Political Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who was the first to point out "governing with no opposition is going to be difficult" since "you tend to want to feel that you have all the answers and that you are doing everything right, and sometimes you are too close to the woods to see the trees".

But political analyst Derek Ramsamooj yesterday said a total PNM win for the THA should cause no fear whatsoever with respect to the decision-making processes of a clearly defined executive majority in the assembly.

He said there have been numerous examples throughout the history of the Commonwealth where political executives have won without legislated opposition.

"We remember the no-vote campaign in T&T in 1972 resulting in no elected opposition. We can also recall that in 1986, the NAR had a clear majority 33-3, and therefore could have changed the Constitution any way they chose.

"Again in 1999 in Grenada, Keith Mitchell, leader of the main New National Party, won all 15 seats; so there are instances in the Commonwealth that followed the Westminster political system, where a political entity would have won all the parliamentary seats."

He said that is why the "Constitution of our countries separates the legislature from the executive and the judiciary, which therefore allows for internal checks and balances. We can all remember in the 18-18 of 2001 election and, in that regard, the President used his discretion".

Ramsamooj said the Constitution has the capacity to curb any form of legislative or executive act that may be viewed as unconstitutional.