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Less power for PM —Rowley
A People’s National Movement (PNM) government will examine constitutional changes, including having a deputy prime minister and having wider input for the election of a president, says PNM leader Keith Rowley. Speaking during a media briefing at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Rowley said the PNM’s General Council had approved constitutional issues which would be dealt with by a new PNM government.
Matters were examined by PNM’s constitutional review team, headed by lady vice-chairman Camille Robinson-Regis and including three former PNM attorney generals. “There are areas which will be strengthened and make Parliament more effective and reduce the prime minister’s power and Cabinet dictatorship,” Rowley added. On the appointment of an acting prime minister, usually made when the PM is out of T&T, he said the council wanted examination of proposals for a deputy prime minister.
Noting that the election of a president is currently done via an electoral college, he said that would be reviewed in favour of a an extended electoral college with broader input so that it did not leave the election of a president only to the party with the majority in Parliament. Also to be examined is entrenching the Cabinet structure and establishment of portfolios in law and legally limiting the Cabinet’s size. Rowley said that would reduce the prime minister’s power and eliminate “any capricious offering” of posts for political purposes.
A smaller Cabinet would also restrict the number of senators, since he said the PNM wanted to avoid a situation where elected MPs were sidelined by senators. Other suggestions include legislating for full-time parliamentarians, since Section 39 of the Constitution does not indicate whether MPs are full-time or part-time. The council also suggested that parliamentary teams should hold the power to subpoena any person or agency to speak on national matters or to intervene in issues.
Rowley said his government would also examine establishing local government responsibility in the Constitution and for internal self-government for Tobago. While the Local Government Ministry will be removed, the sector would have more responsibility for state services, he said. The PNM will also examine constitutional provisions for campaign finance reform and having the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court. All changes would be done with consultation, he added.