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Ramesh vows to stop reform bill

Published: 
Saturday, August 9, 2014

Former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj says he has put on his “fighting clothes” and stands ready to stop the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014, which he believes is a ruse to steal the 2015 general election. The bill is expected to be debated in Parliament on Monday. Speaking at a press conference in San Fernando yesterday, Maharaj said he has set up a team of lawyers to look at the bill and if it is passed in the House, he will take legal action to stop it from being implemented. 

Saying the bill was not only unconstitutional and politically corrupt but also fraudulent, Maharaj said, “It is a recipe for political corruption and an abuse and misuse of State power. It is clearly a device for Government to have the opportunity to steal the next general election. 

“If the Constitution (Amendment Bill) 2014 is made law, a prime minister and ministers of government who lose at the general elections can be allowed to continue to govern the country for at least 15 days, 200 days, two years, three years and even five years. This is political madness. It is outrageous.” He explained that clause nine of the bill says during the supplementary poll the government can remain in office until it is required to vacate. 

“This gives power to the government to have the opportunity of using state resources for its own purposes and to practise political fraud and deceit upon the electorate of T&T. This is taking away the democratic rights of the people and gives power to the government for it to be dictatorial and undemocratic,” Maharaj said. He added that it was not true that Government had consulted with the nation.

Recipe for dictatorship
Maharaj accused Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of making the controversial supplementary poll by shrouding it with the more popular issues such as the right to recall and the two-term government proposal. Saying the bill was a recipe for dictatorship and would kill democracy, Maharaj added, “There is a risk that T&T will become like Afghanistan, Ukraine, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria and other countries which have political instability.”

“The business community would lose its investments and the economy of T&T would be irreparably damaged. Trade union movements would become powerless. The people will lose their human and fundamental rights and the Constitution will become meaningless,” Maharaj predicted.

Asked if the Government had the requisite majority to pass the law, Maharaj said, “If it is a two-thirds majority, they do not have it. If it’s a three-quarter majority, they do not have it. If it’s a three-fifths majority, they have it. “If the Congress of the People decides they are going to withdraw support for the bill, then they would not have the three-fifths majority, but if I am correct, then its not a simple majority vote, it’s a two-thirds vote, which the Government does not have.” 

“This should not be a legal fight, this should be a people fight,” he said, adding that he had set up a group called Democracy Watch to lobby against the erosion of democracy. “If it is one law which is going to mash up T&T, it is this law. We would not be able to recover if we have a situation which the losing government governs T&T for even a day, that is going to be a serious precedent and I do not think the people will accept that,” Maharaj said, commenting that that would give rise to tribal voting, political instability and violence.