Last update: 06-Dec-2013 8:12 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Senator misses cue so PR bill passed
T&T took its first step towards proportional representation at 3.13 am yesterday with the passage of such legislation for appointment of aldermen. The bill was passed in the Senate early yesterday despite Opposition from the People’s National Movement (PNM) and a stiff grilling in the last stage by Independent senators, some of whom unsuccessfully called for a “sunset” clause within the bill.
At least one Independent Senator, Elton Prescott, said afterwards he had not intended to vote for it, as did PNM senators, but during the last stage, Prescott missed his cue to call for a division count and the bill was passed. Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith, after the final process, said the “ayes” had it. It was passed without amendments. When Prescott rose to ask if there was to be a division, Hamel-Smith said “no” and that there had been no request for a division count.
The bill was passed after just over 14 hours of debate which started in the Senate Tuesday afternoon. Following contributions by 18 senators, including eight of the nine Independents, the committee stage involved mainly Independents and Government, with the PNM adding little. During committee, several Independents, including Prescott, Rolph Balgobin and Helen Drayton, spoke about a sunset clause to halt the bill and review it after a certain period.
Drayton said at one point if Government was not taking amendments, it needed to say so and she would then know what position to take: Non-support. Saying senators found themselves dealing with the issue “at this midnight hour,” Drayton added: “You are asking us to respect the executive position but not respect the Parliament but trust works both ways.” She expressed concern that the legislation was faulty and senators were raising issues on which valid answers were not being given.
Balgobin said the bill was a bold experiment and he wanted to support it but required some review process. PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi said the process was flawed and the legislation held pitfalls. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said he could not give a commitment on a sunset clause unilaterally and change government policy on his own.
He said he had never said Government was not prepared to make amendments to the bill, adding Government was indeed opening the door to the possibility of using the system for other elections, including general polls.
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