UNC wants local polls postponed
By Newsday Staff Friday, August 9 2013
click on pic to zoom in
GREETINGS: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar shakes hands with Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Collin Partap on Wednesday evening outside Rienzi Complex in C...
The UNC parliamentary arm is calling for the postponement of local government elections which are constitutionally due in October.
However, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has said she is “not inclined” to put off the polls but would be guided by the party’s membership. Speaking to reporters following a marathon meeting of the UNC national executive and parliamentary arms, which concluded shortly before midnight on Wednesday, Persad-Bissessar said an issue which arose, particularly among councillors, was whether local government elections should be delayed.
“For my own self, I am not inclined so to do because I always feel for the democracy that we need to hold elections when elections are due but again I will be guided by others,” she said.
Among the reasons put forward for a postponement were constitutional and local government reform, with the White Paper of Local Government Reform now before the Cabinet.
“We will need time if we so decide to legislate for that,” Persad-Bissessar said. According to the Prime Minister, the third “compelling reason” relates to President Anthony Carmona’s suggestion, made at last Friday’s opening of the new parliamentary session, that a referendum be held on the Caribbean Court of Justice at the same time as local elections.
“We would need more time if such a referendum is to be held and we may well want to consider another suggestion which is that a referendum on the death penalty be held at the same time so there are a lot of reasons we will have to consider and as you know we had proposed the death penalty and the Opposition did not support us,” she added. However, as for now “there is no decision to delay the elections”, the Prime Minister said. Asked whether there were any legal ramifications for the delay as the councils had been dissolved, she said this would require a simple parliamentary majority.
In response, the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) yesterday urged that the local government elections be held this year as due.
In a statement, Rowley said the Prime Minister has consistently given her commitment to the people of Trinidad and Tobago that elections will be called when due by October 26. The life of the local government council expired on July 26.
“The PNM rejects out of hand any attempt by the Prime Minister to postpone the Local Government elections, particularly since she seeks to justify this on the spurious grounds that it is request being made to her by ex-councillors,” Rowley said.
“We therefore call on the Prime Minister to uphold the law, keep her word and call the elections without delay in keeping with the many assurances which she gave.”
ILP leader and Chaguanas West MP, Jack Warner, in an statement yesterday, said his party was undaunted by talk of a possible postponement and would go ahead and launch their local government campaign tomorrow at Tunapuna. “This is not a question that is up for debate,” Warner said, adding the vociferous stance of the UNC and Persad-Bissessar on this topic against the former People’s National Movement (PNM) regime means that no postponement should even be under contemplation now.
“The UNC and the Prime Minister argued loudly – and correctly – that it was undemocratic to deny citizens their right to elect representatives and to be able to do so within the periods laid out in the Constitution which is the social contract between the people and the State,” related Warner. “It is extremely disappointing to learn that this subject is even entertaining the mind of the Prime Minister when given all that she has proposed to stand for, the question should have been shot down even before it was asked.”
Warner urged the Prime Minister to name the date quickly so that new council members can be elected to look after the needs of the population and rescue local government from its alleged current state of limbo. And on the issue, Congress of the People (COP) chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan yesterday said the COP will listen to the views of coalition partners and of the nation on any local election delay.
Seepersad-Bachan noted the position of the COP has been that the elections should go forward, and the party has screened candidates.
However, she said the party would listen to the views of its partners on the issue. In response to questions on the matter, Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed, a COP senator, told reporters at the post-Cabinet briefing, Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, “On more than one occasion, our Prime Minister has mentioned that elections, when they are due, will be held. We stand by that position in so far as Local Government Elections are concerned.”