Prakash: Don’t rush today’s debate
By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Monday, August 11 2014
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Chairman of the Congress of the People Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and political leader Prakash Ramadhar address members of the media yesterday. ...
CONGRESS of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar yesterday called for a delay in today’s debate of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014.
Ramadhar was speaking to the media following a meeting of the COP’s national council at its headquarters at Charlieville, yesterday.
He said a better understanding of the proposed amendments was needed and today’s debate should be postponed.
“The manner in terms of the speed and complaints, justifiably so from some quarters, are things we have to attend to. Today, this party voted that there should be a delay between tomorrow and the ultimate votes because if it is good tomorrow it will be good next month and even better as the population better understand the thing,” Ramadhar told reporters.
Ramadhar suggested that a joint Select committee was one option or ‘at least for some further time’ was a reasonable position for the party to take.
“I will communicate with her on our party’s position. I cannot guarantee what would happen but I expect the respect that we have been shown in the past, I do not want to theorise and I will continue discussion with the Prime Minister and see how things go,” Ramadhar noted.
Ramadhar chaired the Constitution Reform Committee (CRC) which conducted public consultations on changes to the Constitution.
“It is a reality now before the Parliament and there is an attack on it, some justifiable and others not. Everybody speaks about change but when change happens, it is difficult sometimes.
If you want to make an enemy, suggest a change. I think the population need to be better educated with this matter,” Ramadhar said.
There has been widespread discontent from many quarters, including some COP members, over the proposed amendments.
Ramadhar, however, has continued to maintain his support for the proposed changes, adding that constitutional change was something that everybody only thought could happen in theory. He said many people were just fearful of the unknown.
“It is a reality now before the Parliament and there is an attack on it, some justifiable and others not. Everybody speaks about change but when change happens, it is difficult sometimes. If you want to make an enemy, suggest a change. I think the population need to be better educated with on this matter,” Ramadhar said.
The COP leader also described Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s criticisms of CRC member Dr Merle Hodge’s
views on the proposed legislation as ‘distasteful’ as he condemned the comments made by his Cabinet colleague.
“I do not want to add fuel in the fire except to say that Ms. Hodge is a well respected person in the community and also by me. Her contribution throughout the effort were honourable and is something to be applauded. She is entitled to her views like every other commissioner,” Ramadhar said.
On the proposed legislation, Ramadhar called for restraint from all quarters.
“I call for a restrained approach to things. Step back and really look and see all this mischiefs that people are complaining about. Where is it really? Proportional Representation was successful in the Local Government Elections. Those who said it was an effort to steal the elections, they gain more of it than everyone else because we believe in systems not designs to favor one over the other, ” he explained.
Ramadhar also had opposing views on the suggestion that the proposed amendments could fuel racial voting.
“ The coalition diminishes the likelihood of racial voting. If we did not have coalition politics one could have made that argument,” Ramadhar said.
COP’s founder Winston Dookeran told reporters his view, as well as the general consensus of the party, was that the parliamentary debate should not be rushed.
“The debate should not conclude although it can start. There are different ways to achieve some of the goals and a Joint Select Committee can look at it. I do not think this bill should be passed and I do not get the impression that anyone thought so,” he said.
COP’s chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan shared similar views to that of Ramadhar and said after extensive deliberations on the views expressed by members of the national council on the issue of the run-off ballot, members concluded that there was a need for further discussions and should be proper ventilated with the public.
“We needed to know more on how the public felt on the matter. A motion was passed and we are of the view that this matter should be deferred. It should be postponed too allow for further discussion to take place on the issue of run off within a reasonable time-frame,” she said.
During the day-long meeting two of three suspended COP members- Satu Ann Ramcharan and Rudolph Hanamji- staged a placard demonstration in front of the centre. They were also joined by Kirk Waithe, head of Fixin TT, which is also calling for today’s debate to be postponed.
Chairman of the Congress of the People Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and political leader Prakash Ramadhar address members of the media yesterday. Photo by Ansel Jebodh