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Opposition says no to changes in Constitution

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley is promising no support for the Government for proposed changes to the Constitution as contained in the December 27, 2013 report of the Cabinet-appointed commission chaired by Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar. Rowley indicated so during a news conference at his Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, office yesterday. The 47-page report was discussed in Cabinet last week and will be made available to the public and specific stakeholders tomorrow for additional public comment. Rowley, who called for the document to be made public, said it was expected to be used by the People’s Partnership Government as a tool in next year’s general election. The Diego Martin West MP said a similar attempt was made by the Government on the eve of the October 21, 2013 local government elections when it brought a motion to Parliament to allow for aldermen to be elected by a system of proportional representation.


He said that was unwelcome by the PNM and it was not prepared to support any rushed measure in Parliament. “We are simply putting the Government on notice that where it involves support from the Opposition for any of their adventures and their folly, the PNM will provide no accompaniment,” Rowley said. The commission recommended that the Constitution should be changed to allow only senators to be appointed as ministers. It recommended also that all senators, except the nine appointed by the President, should be elected by the population, via a system of proportional representation. The document said electors would be allowed to cast two ballots during the election, one for an MP and the other for senator. Members of the House of Representatives, the document said, should perform the roles of representing their constituencies, serving on parliamentary committees and monitoring the Government.


Rowley said the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) wanted amendments to the Constitution to rectify existing shortcomings and not radical reform. He said he was not satisfied with the way the commission conducted its work as the population was not adequately consulted on it. Rowley noted he was not sure if the report contained any recommendations for granting internal self-government for Tobago within the unitary state. Internal self-government was a matter of high priority for Tobagonians, he said. The issue was not addressed in the report, which was obtained by the T&T Guardian. Rowley said the PNM would not allow itself to be set up in the matter, insisting that the Opposition was open for proper discussions on amendment to the Constitution but “not open to being railroaded by a misleading majority in the Parliament.” Rowley said he was not surprised that some people had described the recommendations as the worst ever.


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