There were two “new” leaders in Parliament yesterday.
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Analyst: Political backlash will come
Political analyst Dr Winford James said yesterday there would be a political backlash for the People’s Partnership Government now that the Constitutional (Amendment) bill has been passed. Saying he was not surprised the Congress of the People’s (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar voted for the bill, James said: “It was expected Ramadhar would not vote based on his conscience like Dookeran and Seepersad-Bachan did.”
He noted, however, the result would have remained the same even if Ramadhar had voted against it. Several independent senators and political analysts declined comment on the controversial bill yesterday. Derek Ramsamooj, who went to Parliament for the bill, said he did not wish to offer his opinion to the media. Independent Senator Rev Joy Abdul-Mohan said she wanted to research the legislation before commenting.
She said: “I am trying to be well prepared before I make any decision or comment. I am doing research on this bill. I have to be cautious so I prefer not to comment at this time.” Another political analyst, Dr Bishnu Ragoonath, said the PP remained strong despite the absence of collective Cabinet voting on the bill. However, he said, divergence of political positions within the COP showed that party was splintering.
Ragoonath said he was not surprised Ramadhar voted for the bill although he had called on Sunday for a delay in the parliamentary vote. “Ramadhar had to support the bill. He was the minister who piloted the consultations so that was expected. As for Dookeran and Carolyn, they played their hands the way they wanted to play it because Dookeran had announced he was not going to support it. He allowed his conscience vote to take place,” Ragoonath said.
Asked about the PM’s decision to let MPs to vote on conscience, Ragoonath said that was a smart move but he said the controversy surrounding the bill would not weaken the Partnership. “The Partnership is only as strong as the UNC. The Partnership is in power with five COP and two TOP MPs and as we move into the next election, there is no guarantee that Tobago will return to TOP.
The COP will have to fight for the seats they have. The COP will now have to revisit its position on its own platform as to who is the leader because there seems to be greater in-fighting within the COP,” Ragoonath said. Asked about his thoughts on the bill, Ragoonath said it was “a good piece of legislation.”
“I don’t see this bill as an attack on democracy. It is a good bill. The unfortunate things is if the Government had given time for the bill to be debated and discussed among the citizenry, it would have been accepted,” he noted. He said the rush by Government to pass the bill was being viewed with suspicion by the population.
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