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Tewarie: I will support bill
Planning and Sustainable Development Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie has signaled his intention to vote in favour of the controversial Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 when it goes to the Senate for debate. This, even though his fellow COP members in the Lower House were divided on the proposed bill when they voted on it on Tuesday morning at the close of the parliamentary debate. “I think it is a good bill. I think it has been unnecessarily caught up in controversy,” Tewarie said on Wednesday night.
He is one of two Congress of the People (COP) members in the Senate, the other member is Environment Minister Ganga Singh. The bill will be brought to the Upper House on Tuesday and debated on August 26. It seeks to provide fixed terms of office for a prime minister, right of recall and a runoff vote to ensure MPs receive more than 50 per cent of the votes cast before becoming a member of the House of Representatives.
Tewarie, speaking with reporters at the end of the public presentation of the draft integrated feasibility study on the San Fernando Redevelopment Project at San Fernando City Hall on Wednesday night, said he had no difficulties with the legislation. He said the entire controversy surrounding the bill “has been about the process and misunderstanding of one of the provisions, the runoff election and that was unfortunate.” He said the controversy “took away from the substance of the provision.” When asked if he would vote in favour of the bill, Tewarie said: “I am comfortable with the bill. I really do not have a problem.”
Tewarie expressed disappointment over the way the bill was handled in the House of Representatives by his COP colleagues. “I am not happy that you had a difference of opinion of that kind,” he added. He said the government MPs should have been united on the bill and “it would have been better if we had a little more time to resolve the issues internally and perhaps have a common front on it because as I said there is nothing wrong with the provision.” Tewarie, who had a long career in education, said he believed Government should have launched a public education campaign on the contentious legislation before taking it to Parliament.
He said it was always better for people to understand what the government was doing. “Perhaps if we had gone to the population and explained the whole picture of how we were planning to do this coming with the bills that require simple majority first and coming with the bills that require larger majority after, the population may have been more receptive to what we are doing,” he said. The minister explained that other provisions, such as proportional representation and the option of a referendum, are due to come in other bills and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill was part of that package of legislation. “I think there was also a misinterpretation which made its way into the public that the runoff provision was hostile to the proportional representation idea and that is not true because you can have both,” he said.
The minister hoped the division in Tuesday’s vote between the COP members did not adversely affect the party nor the Government.