NEW MP RECALL LAW READY
By Andre Bagoo Sunday, June 29 2014
A DRAFT bill proposing a new mechanism for the recall of Members of Parliament has been completed by the Ministry of the Attorney General and is due to be tabled at Cabinet within coming weeks, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said last week.
In an interview with Sunday Newsday, the Prime Minister disclosed that she had been informed by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan that the legislation had been completed.
“The bill has been prepared and is ready to be tabled at Cabinet for approval,” Persad-Bissessar said. “Once approved by the Cabinet the bill will be tabled at the earliest possible opportunity. It may be tabled in time for the current session or the next. If the legislation is tabled in time for the current session and the session lapses we will ensure that it is returned in the next session.”
The Prime Minister, for the first time, divulged details of how a right of recall of MP s could work. She stated the provisions of the new law will be triggered by a process involving constituents in a given constituency signing a petition. If an adequate proportion of that constituency calls for an MP to be recalled the matter would then be that the MP would face recall from the seat, triggering a bye-election once less than four years have elapsed within the Parliament term.
Persad-Bissessar also said the Elections and Boundaries would play a crucial role. She said the EBC would be called upon to confirm that each signatory to a recall petition is, in fact, a bona fide constituent of the constituency in question.
“The EBC would be an essential check and balance to ensure that each name on the petition is valid,” the Prime Minister said. Cabinet is to deliberate on what proportion of the constituency would be required to sign the petition though 10 per cent is currently proposed.
The right of recall of MPs was promised by Persad-Bissessar during the 2010 general election campaign.
The Constitution Reform Commission, in its December 2013 report, focused on the issue of how MPs performances would be evaluated.
“The right of recall of elected parliamentarians was also proposed to the Commission,” the report states. “This was advanced in the context of the measurement of the performance of MPs, and there was some discussion among Commissioners about how one could actually measure the performance of the MP.”
The report continued, “It was noted that the Salaries Review Commission has regarded the job of an MP who does not hold any ministerial portfolio as being a part-time one. This raised the issue of whether the job of the MP could be a full-time one. A fundamental issue to be resolved is whether elected MPs should also be appointed Ministers or should be elected to serve constituencies alone.”
The report states, “The Commission considered the issue of the right of recall of a sitting MP in the context that the MP ought to be afforded the opportunity to have a period of service before being placed in a position to be judged on that service ahead of the end of the parliamentary term for which he/she was elected. Elected MPs being judged on their service to their constituencies may not get equality of treatment as some of them are Ministers and others not.”
“This will create an uneven field for adequate assessment. It was also noted by the Commission that there already exists in the Constitution a provision for the right of MPs to be recalled by the leaders of the parties on whose ticket they were elected if they should resign from, or be expelled by, such party,” the report stated.
The completion of legislation on the recall of MPs comes amid moves by Parliament to improve the terms and conditions of MP s and Senators.
An MP’s pension bill tabled this month proposes an increase retirement allowances for MPs — in some cases tripling it. That bill also widens the scheme to include the unelected Senators; makes it easier to qualify for an allowance and introduces, for the first time, a “termination benefit” for MPs voted out of office after a general election. That legislation returns to the Senate on July 8 after the Government last week announced that it would not pass the bill until all opinions are voiced in the Senate. The Government also proposed to refer the matter to a Special Select Committee of the Senate and to abide by that committee’s recommendations, if the Senators called for such a move.