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PNM weighing legal challenge

After talks on constitutional changes
Published: 
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Former national security minister Martin Joseph, left, greets former senator Fitzgerald Hinds before the start of the People’s National Movement's emergency general council meeting at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

People’s National Movement (PNM) public relations officer Faris Al-Rawi says the party is discussing the effect of the constitutional changes proposed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to consider whether it can be challenged by law.

Al-Rawi spoke to media at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, prior to an emergency meeting of the party’s General Council. This meeting followed hours of talks earlier between members of the PNM hierarchy and other stakeholders on how they would respond to the proposals, which could come when Government introduces them during debate on the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2014 next week.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar introduced the bill, which proposes a term limit for prime minister, a recall provision for MPs and a runoff poll in elections for the House of Representatives, during the opening of the fifth and final session of the tenth Parliament on Monday. The changes would not require Opposition support but would need a simple majority to be passed. But Al-Rawi said yesterday’s General Council meeting at Balisier House was intended to look deeper into the proposed bill.

“On the face of it, from an initial perspective, it does seem that there is no collusion between attempts to amend the Constitution and entrenched rights. However, that is not to say that constitutionally there isn’t a collusion that could be challenged,” Al-Rawi. “It is certainly something we are looking at. We will pour our thought into, because it may very well be that there is a deeper constitutional effect that can be considered that may very well be challengeable in a court of law.”

 Al-Rawi said this was something the party must look at and added that they would discuss all of the sections of the Constitution that will be affected. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said the PNM would address the public today on the decisions taken at the meeting.
Denying that the PNM was in “panic mode,” Rowley said the party was operating with confidence.

“I don’t know where the word panic come from, PNM operates with confidence. This edifice is confidence. We have an organisation. Members who serve in the Parliament report to this organisation and are guided by decisions taken here,” he said. 

“When we come out here tonight, we come out with the confidence that we will be engaging a rogue Government and the only defence between the people of T&T and disaster is the PNM and this offering that they have offered us here, only the PNM can protect the country from that and we will do that.”