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AG: PNM ‘scare tactics’ on Constitution bill

Published: 
Sunday, August 10, 2014

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday described Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s late Friday night address on the proposed Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 as “woefully irrational and utterly baseless.”

“It must be noted that the PNM (People’s National Movement) has suddenly awakened from its slumber to propose amendments to the Constitution of its own. Even while they seek to condemn us for a lack of consultation we ask and when did they consult to arrive at these proposals? Have they abandoned their quest for an executive President? Have they distanced themselves from the (former prime minister Patrick) Manning constitution that sought to subvert the independence of the judiciary?” he asked.

“It is clear that his attack is based on fear, deceit and a complete lack of understanding of true democracy,” Ramlogan said. Ramlogan said Rowley’s speech was full of typical PNM “scare tactics.” “He seeks to manipulate the psyche of the nation into rejecting change that is good,” Ramlogan said. Ramlogan said Rowley was threatened by the “foresight, vision and courage of this Government in propelling the country into a brighter future.”

The AG said that the Constitution (Amendment) Bill stems from a solid foundation of “numerous public consultations, extensive research and thorough analyses.” He said because the reforms seek to empower the people, it sent a “chill” down the PNM’s spine. “It has never been their modus operandi to give power to the people or to engage the population’s intellect: Vote for a crapaud in a balisier tie was the mantra,” he said.

He called on the population to reject the “tired” PNM refrains and strategies. “These reforms signify our growing maturity and our understanding that we can change the way things have always been done.” Rowley focused his ire on three main aspects of the proposal: the two-term limit for a prime minister, the right of recall and the runoff elections.

With regards to the two-term limit, Ramlogan said there were nearly 90 other countries across the globe that currently had limits on the number of terms that the head of government could hold office. With regards to the right of recall, Ramlogan said Rowley’s concern was that the threshold to trigger this mechanism was so high as to render it ineffectual. 

“This criticism is once again founded in a lack of understanding of democratic process. Persons who face the electorate to become MP’s are there to serve the people. It should not be easy to undo the fully democratic process which positioned these individuals,” he said. Ramlogan said Rowley failed to understand the “principle of this reform.” “His accusations are mathematically erroneous,” he said. 

“Why would any right-thinking democratically minded individual want to be governed by any party that failed to secure 50 per cent of the votes cast,” he said. “Clearly this issue of runoff elections has caused so much terror in the Rowley camp that they have consciously misrepresented and sabotaged these reforms,” he said.