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Blows from Rowley for PP in reform debate

... Govt can’t be trusted
Published: 
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Opposition supporters call for the debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 to be stopped during a protest yesterday outside the Parliament Building, Tower D, International Waterfront, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: MARYANN AUGUSTE

If Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar is the “turkey who’s prepared to vote for Thanksgiving”— the runoff poll idea — then the People’s National Movement (PNM) is not voting for that, Opposition Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.

“If after he (Ramadhar) brought it to the Parliament and laid it as the way to go under the guise of national interest, he has to go to his own party and be told, ‘We don’t want it, stop it,’ then that’s for him!” Rowley added while speaking in yesterday’s Parliament debate on Government’s package of constitutional reform bills.

Rowley said the runoff system was the real reason for the legislation because of the Government’s concerns about the PNM’s power in a three-way political fight. He said the legislation was needed to reinforce the United National Congress’s position in such a situation and treat with UNC’s fear over the next general election.

“But it puts the party (UNC) interest over the national interest,” he added.

Rowley said the UNC segment of the People’s Partnership (PP) had disregarded the Constitution Reform Commission’s recommendation that there should be political consensus on drafting any constitutional legislation bills and even some PP members didn’t know how the current bills had arisen. He said the COP was saying they were not with the PP and the PNM had also been left out of the discussions.

He said half the Cabinet didn’t hear about the proposal until last week and Ramadhar, head of the Legislative Review Committee, had questions on how it went to Cabinet.

The situation, Rowley noted, meant 15 PP MPs could change T&T’s electoral system and justify it by saying the PNM had also had runoff polls, since once there was a quorum and Government had one more than the Opposition the legislation would be passed.

Rowley said the situation caused the PP to be “in a war” with CRC commission member Dr Merle Hodge, since the Attorney General had “attacked” her in his statements last week and should not have done so because Hodge had raised the question of where the proposal came from.

However, Rowley had to apologise to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and withdraw an incorrect statement he made about her on the Hodge issue. 

Proposal rejected in UK

Rowley called for the population to “bury” the PP with the proposal during elections in the same way the UK electorate reportedly rejected a similar proposal from the Conservative Liberal-Democratic coalition in the UK. 

Calling on the Government to call the general election now, he said Government should ask the people what they wanted and not speak for them.

Whereas during the period of the 18-18 election deadlock years ago, in which the environment was different, he claimed the proposal would now allow 15 days of “electioneering and campaigning” to occur while parties awaited results of a runoff polls.

“It creates the environment for bribery, splurging and chaos to try and change the results,” he said, citing situations that occurred in the THA election and St Joseph by-election.

Rowley said the PP only resorted to saying they were doing things “because the PNM did it too” when they were in trouble, but the PNM would not be taken in by the Prime Minister’s “sweet talk.” 

He claimed she said previously that the third parties held “dangerous potential” and that was the driving factor behind the proposed runoff poll.

The Government’s proposal for recall of MPs in the fourth year, he argued, was also “nonsense.” 

Saying the PP could not be trusted, he said: “Yes, we ’fraid all you and we have good reason to ‘fraid you.”

Chastising Government for calling a Parliament session during the “vacation” period, he said Government had “ambushed” the Opposition and PNM MPs overseas on vacation had to be rushing to airports to get home for the debate.