Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Early sitting for proportional representation bill debate
Government intends to complete debate on the proportional representation bill in the Lower House on Friday—no matter how long debate runs—in order to debate it in the Senate next Tuesday, Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed said yesterday. Parliament officials also said yesterday that debate on the bill could start in the Senate next Tuesday even though the 2014 budget is being presented next Monday in the Lower House. Mohammed said it was realistic to start debate on the bill on Friday morning. “Why not? The Prime Minister said Government is moving along with it and if we have to debate into Friday night, it will be completed on Friday and sent to the Senate on August 10.” Mohammed said the bill requires a simple majority vote for passage, and the People’s Partnership Government has the majority in both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament to pass it “without any problem.” “All our MPs are in accordance with it and we have the votes in the Lower House of all those who are under the PP whip,” Mohammed said.
With Jack Warner now the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader and Herbert Volney an independent and an ILP member, the PP has 27 MPs in the Lower House and will have its 16-member complement in the Upper House on Tuesday. PNM whip Marlene McDonald said yesterday that she received a copy of the bill when she attended last Thursday’s crime talks with Government, and other PNM MPs had also received theirs. While McDonald agreed that a simple majority was needed to pass the bill, she added, “(But) I’d like to see it pass in the Senate.” The Opposition has six senators and there are nine Independents. McDonald declined to elaborate on her statement, saying the PNM was to caucus on the matter last night. She added, “But I’ll say the Legal Affairs Minister was all over T&T talking about constitutional reform in recent months, yet no mention was made of this proportional representation issue. “It came out of nowhere in time for local government polls, so I believe the UNC is running scared of being wiped out, and this system might help people get an alderman or two in place.”McDonald, who campaigned all weekend with local government nominees in her area, Port-of-Spain South, said the PNM’s 134 local government candidates had been campaigning since July.
The PP’s Mohammed said the proportional representation thrust was something the Congress of the People (COP) had always called for over the years and it was basically a COP position within the PP. He added: “It will be a warm introduction to proportional representation, which is long overdue. “There are different types and different ways to do it. Some places do it with seats based on the percentage of votes a person gets. In our case, assigning of council seats will be determined by the quota of votes and the number of people who come out to vote. So the more people vote for your party, the more you get.” It is expected that the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle will be implemented before Friday’s debate on the bill, or at latest in time for Monday’s budget debate, other government officials said yesterday. In that announcement will be an appointment to fill the vacancy of Senate vice president left by Lyndira Oudit recently. The PM has said the reshuffle will present a new look Cabinet. So far she’s confirmed splitting the Works and Local Government portfolio held by Suruj Rambachan. Rambachan said yesterday the reshuffle would be before the budget. Gender Affairs Minister Marlene Coudray is tipped for Local Government. COP MP Rodger Samuel is tipped to take over her ministry and be brought into Cabinet. Samuel recently threatened to resign from his minister of state post at the OPM, but held his hand. Recently, Samuel has been accompanying the PM on various engagements. COP MPs met with the Prime Minister two weeks ago to express concern about national issues, including allegations in the public domain, and to call for various changes in the governance process and structure.
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