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Bill the death-knell for COP, says Warner

By SEAN DOUGLAS Tuesday, August 12 2014

CHAGUANAS West MP and Independent Liberal Party (ILP) chairman Jack Warner described the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 as a “bitter attack on third parties” and seeks to subsume the Congress of the People (COP) into the United National Congress (UNC). Warner was speaking yesterday on the debate of the bill in Parliament.

He dubbed it “a concoction to marginalise third parties.”

Warner revealed what he had recently written to two unnamed COP MPs on the bill: “This is the death knell for your party. Can’t you see that? This is an attempt to subsume your party into this monolithic UNC body.”

Warner said the proposal for a second round runoff ballot would unfairly deny citizens the right to vote for a minority party of their choice such as the ILP or COP.

Further, the runoff plan is inconsistent with the other constitutional reform proposal for senators to be apportioned by a system of proportional representation according to the share of votes won by each party, including minority parties.

He scoffed at COP leader Prakash Ramadhar’s earlier endorsement of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s announcement allowing Cabinet members an individual conscience vote on the bill by saying this was not any gift from the PM but rather was a concession to those in the COP who opposed the bill, granted after last Sunday’s meeting, at which COP founder Winston Dookeran and chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan had expressed reservations.

“Let the Prime Minister not do that and see what would happen,” he scoffed, apparently referring to the fact that COP support is needed to pass the bill.

Warner contrasted the Government’s support for the bill with the ruling UNC’s failure to hold its own internal elections which he said were now two years overdue. Rolling off a list of allegedly unkept governmental promises (such as tackling crime and eliminating corruption), he accused the Government, in backing the bill, of cheery-picking which of its manifesto promises to keep.

He said if the bill’s new format for general elections is good for democracy as stated by the Government, then why doesn’t the UNC hold its internal elections.

“Wouldn’t charity begin at home first?” he asked. He said page two of the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) Report urged a continuation of the first-past-the post system of general elections. “What ‘runoff’. Where they get that from?” he asked aloud.

He questioned the addendum to the CRC Report that the Government has said supports the runoff provision.

He said he could not find the addendum in the report. “This was given to the Prime Minister as a private document, for your eyes only. That secret document that never formed a part of the consultative process is now being used to justify the bill.”

He hit as “base, in poor taste and very crass” Attorney-General Anand Ramlogan’s criticism of CRC member Dr Merle Hodge, who opposes the runoff provision.

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