PM: Have your say, people
Monday, March 4 2013
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Let there be light: Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine hangs a solar energy lantern on trees at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain where he hosted a cockta...
“LET YOUR voices be heard.”
That was the request of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she spoke at the launch of a nationwide series of consultations on Constitution reform on Saturday.
In an address at the University of the West Indies’ Sports and Physical Education Centre, St Augustine, the Prime Minister said it was imperative that any reform of the Supreme Law be based on the will of the people. A draft document, she said, will be prepared on the basis of consultation.
“I encourage every community and every citizen to make their voices heard, to have their say and raise the issues, make suggestions and contribute to the positive development of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said. “We recognise that change must come from the people. We therefore are not adopting a ‘top-down’ approach. Instead, through the consultation process, the views and expression of the people will be considered and will then become the basis upon which a draft document is prepared.”
She continued, “In this way my Government reaffirms its commitment to constitutional reform by adopting a hands-on approach, with the focus of reform being placed firmly upon the people. We will therefore be able to strongly defend any proposal that has been made and provide relevant insight and background, to ensure that the will of the people is implemented.
“I wish to reiterate that public participation is essential to this exercise of constitutional reform.”
The Prime Minister noted several issues which are likely to come up in discussions, among them the idea of an Executive President.
“There are I am sure a myriad other issues which will surface in these consultations,” she said. “The idea of an Executive President has engaged the population for some time now. The discussion on a form of proportional representation to replace the Westminster system has also been discussed for over fifty years. As I said there are I am sure a myriad of other issues which will surface in these consultations. Let your voices be heard.”
Persad-Bissessar noted the current Constitution has been in place for decades and it is time for a review.
“The time has therefore come to review our constitutional framework, and revisit the machinery and arrangements by which the constitution intended we should be governed,” she said. “Half a century after we severed the colonial umbilical cord and matured as a constitutional democracy, a frank evaluation and self-assessment is necessary.”
The Prime Minister noted that the work of the State sometimes seems to be hindered by processes within the current framework. She said there are clearly, “aspects of the Constitution which require serious discussion since at times the work of government as well as the responsiveness of the public service are seemingly hindered by provisions and processes in the Constitution.”
However, she also called for caution, noting that there may be good reasons for current provisions and that the real problem may lie elsewhere.
“That being said, there might have been good reason for the provisions as they were then outlined,” she said. “ In fact, I go further to suggest that on close examination, the problem may not at all be the constitutional provisions but the delays that occur as a result of how the commissions function overall.” She described the consultations as a unique opportunity.
“The launch of this Constitutional Reform initiative presents us all with a very unique opportunity to contribute to the shaping of the supreme law of the land,” Persad-Bissessar said. “It is my fervent hope that this initiative will yield fruitful and meaningful discussions, originating from the citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago.”