|DEMOCRACY IS NOT STATIC |
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, August 10 2014
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Anand Ramlogan ...
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan says Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s attack on the Government’s proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill is based on “fear, deceit and a complete lack of understanding of true democracy.”
“Nothing he uttered was reinforced by a justifiable argument and not an iota of evidence was offered,” Ramlogan said in a statement.
“He (Rowley) is using worn-out PNM scare tactics of panic and intimidation as he seeks to manipulate psyche of the nation into rejecting change that is good. He is clearly threatened by the foresight, vision and courage of this Government in propelling the country into a brighter future.”
Ramlogan was responding to Rowley’s televised address to the nation on Friday night in which the Opposition leader called on citizens to reject the proposed bill. Rowley claimed the legislation threatened to erode the country’s democracy.
The controversial bill is scheduled to be debated in the House of Representatives tomorrow at 10.30 am.
Ramlogan said the proposed constitutional reforms stemmed from a solid foundation of numerous public consultations, extensive research and thorough analyses.
“Democracy is not a static thing and neither is a constitution,” Ramlogan said.
“A constitution is a living, breathing instrument that grows and evolves with the people whom it serves, as they also grow and evolve.
“Our society has developed and matured over the last half a century since we gained Independence, and is more than ready to make informed decisions about their political future. To handcuff them to the old structures that were designed for a different time and era in our politics is to encourage political stagnation constitutional stasis,” he said.
“The people of Trinidad and Tobago, for the first time, will be given a real opportunity to explore their constitution and express their concerns. These reforms come from the belly of the people, not from the wild imaginations of politicians nor the self-serving interest of the narrow, validating elite.”
The AG said Rowley’s suggestion that a run-off election will impair the peaceful transfer of power from government to government ignores the reality that the incumbent Prime Minister always remains in office unless another Prime Minister is appointed.
“This is already provided for in the Constitution and the right of the President to appoint a new PM in the event there is a clear majority that cannot be altered by the results of pending run-offs remain,” he argued.
“This much is already clear and we will be happy to clarify it even further. Every government remains in office regardless of the outcome until the President informs the Prime Minister that the President is going to reappoint that Prime Minister or to appoint someone else as Prime Minister under section 77(2)(a) of the Constitution which is not being amended here.”
Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communication, Vasant Bharath, also accused Rowley of “panicking” over the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill.
“Dr Rowley is clearly panicking at the thought that constitutional reforms will force him and his party to place the views of people over the views of his party,” Bharath said in a statement.
He contended that claims made by Rowley in his Friday night address bore no relation to fact or reality.
“He is attacking the reforms that were developed by an independent commission, based on extensive consultation across the country, and is bullying the people of Trinidad and Tobago to accept his constitutional reforms, which were sneakily developed by only PNM officials. That is what they did in 2006 and that is what they did again in 2014,” Bharath declared.
Regarding second ballot run-off voting, Bharath accused Rowley of trying to con the nation into thinking that the procedure will create instability.
“But Dr Rowley must answer why he sat quietly and was happy to be part of an illegitimate Cabinet in 2002,” he said.
“At that time, what Dr Rowley’s PNM did was to abuse grey areas of the constitution and cling to power for ten months without Parliamentary scrutiny. And that was one of the more unstable periods in our history. Yet now, when we see new measures to prevent such an atrocious attack on democracy, Dr Rowley has refused to support them.”
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