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More reform to come, says PM

Published: 
Friday, August 29, 2014
Independent senators consult each other during the committee stage of the debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 on Thursday night, at Parliament, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. Photo: Micheal Bruce

After three days of intense debate inside and outside of Parliament, the Constitution (Amendment) Bill was sent to the committee stage to allow senators to make amendments but Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says there will be more changes to come to the electoral process. Persad-Bissessar, who had been deeply involved in the drafting of the bill, said another bill for fixed election dates was being considered by Cabinet.

She also said the Government was still looking at proportional representation. In an hour-long wrap-up of the bill, which proposes fixed election dates, term limits for prime ministers, the right to recall non-performing MPs and a runoff ballot system, Persad-Bissessar praised Independent senators for their input. She also condemned the Opposition’s criticisms, saying they failed to make any suggestions and had taken a decision to vote against even before the bill was read. 

However, she assured there was no need to fear the bill as it was the people who would decide who governed the country. She said: “I thank you members of the Independent bench because whilst it is that the Opposition did not come out with a single idea or proposals as to the way forward, indeed it was as Mr (Rennie) Dumas said in his article that they did not propose any way forward, any suggestions, apart from condemnation.

“I was very happy that from the Independent bench that there were suggestions coming forward from several of them. “I think the comment made by Senator (David) Small that we are going into uncharted waters, that is so totally true. The very reasoned comment came from Senator (Anthony) Vieira. “Honourable Senator (Dhanayshar) Mahabir came up with a very interesting session, which we certainly would give consideration to at the committee stage. “Honourable Senator Mr (Victor) Wheeler has his own concerns and he has spoken from a Tobago perspective and the perspectives of his patients. 

“He said he has been speaking with his patients and they told him to do the righ t thing. Honourable Senator as your conscience dictates, I am sure you will do the right thing.” Persad-Bissessar took offence to Roach’s call for an early election, saying she had never heard an Independent senator making such a call in her 26 years as a politician. She assured the elections would be called when they are due and announced that the proposed fixed election dates were before Cabinet. “No reasonable, fair-minded citizens can conceive that the vote of an Independent senator caused a coup in T&T. You see that is a subliminal message to create fear in the minds of the public. I doubt Independent senators here will be so ‘jumbied’ by such a comment.”