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Hodge disputes ‘addendum’ to Reform report

Sunday, August 10 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Merle Hodge...
Merle Hodge...

Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) member Merle Hodge yesterday claimed the addendum to the Commission’s Reform report released by the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday was an internal document tagged “Private and confidential: Not for circulation,” and addressed exclusively to the Prime Minister in mid-July 2014.

Hodge claimed this document was “never published and disseminated as the Report was” and that it was only on Friday that it became the “Addendum to the Constitution Reform Report.”

“The run-off provision did not come from the people, and it was never revealed to the people before Monday, August 4, 2014, one week before it was to be debated in the Parliament,” she said in a statement to the media yesterday in which she accused Government of trying to make her a “liar” over the controversial run-off poll proposal in the Constitutional Amendment Bill.

“My concern with the run-off proposal is not so much where it first appeared; at this point I don’t care. My concern is how the population has reacted to it,” she said, noting that “many people are offended and alarmed by this particular item and a democratic government would take heed.”

Hodge, a retired university lecturer and social activist, said the document had grown out of a meeting held on April 30, 2014, at which the CRC discussed and agreed to some proposals selected from the Report, to be taken to Parliament.

“The run-off proposal was not there, because it was not in the Report,” she insisted in her statement yesterday.

She said further discussions were held at a meeting on July 9, 2014, but admitted that both herself and another commissioner were absent from that meeting. She said minutes from that meeting were circulated on July 13 for review and comment.

“That was my first introduction to the run-off idea,” she said, saying that she did not “warm to the idea of thousands of votes being cancelled, and I pointed to this as part of my feedback.”

“I did not see the red flags at the time, for the idea was developed with cogent arguments supported by concrete evidence (sections 46-57). I don’t know where the run-off idea came from, but I have never had any reason not to trust the expertise and the good intentions of the CRC member who was our resource person in constitutional matters. Again, I gave my consent to the document, and again, I take responsibility for all of its contents.”

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