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Ramadhar backs the bill

By SEAN DOUGLAS Tuesday, August 12 2014

MINISTER of Legal Affairs and COP leader, Prakash Ramadhar, came out in full support of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 as the Government’s second speaker in yesterday’s Lower House debate, the day after his somewhat wavering stance in talking to reporters after Sunday’s COP General Council meeting, where he called for a delay on the parliamentary vote on the bill.

He said the runoff provision would actually empower minority parties and small interest groups whose support in the second-round or runoff ballot would have to be wooed by the two major parties that emerged from the first round. He said small interests could form political parties, especially in a marginal constituency, to try to affect the second round runoff ballot. “You coalesce as a force that goes to the runoff election,” he said. Ramadhar said this was an improvement from traditional campaigns where he claimed supporters of third and fourth parties had been afraid to make their voices heard.

Ramadhar hit Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for querying the bill by likening him to a friend from his law school days at Cave Hill, Barbados, named “Brian”, who would woo any female he could on the basis that if he tried 100 times then statistically he might succeed at least once.

Ramadhar said the bill should be supported because a long history of promises for constitutional reform had led to a preset-day scepticism of anything happening. The bill in Parliament yesterday showed that “new politics” is still alive, he said. He related that he had recruited commissioners to serve on the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) by vowing to stake his political future on the CRC’s success. He said he held consultations across TT and then got Cabinet’s nod for two more consultations which led to the “addendum” being prepared, a remark that prompted derisive scoffs from the Opposition benches.

Ramadhar claimed the Opposition had sought to demonise the bill and create hysteria over it. He supported the idea of a fixed term for a prime minister so as to curb the ambitions of anyone seeking to accrue power while neglecting the affairs of the country. Backing the right to recall, Ramadhar said, “It is important for the electorate to have power between election dates.” He invoked the name of COP founder and Tunapuna MP Winston Dookeran who last Sunday expressed reservations on the bill. “Mr Dookeran talked about change,” said Ramadhar, to the heckles of Opposition MPs, including one saying, “He’s ashamed of you.”

At one stage Ramadhar challenged Rowley to say what policies he supports — such as an aluminium smelter or the property tax — and asked if he believes in the idea of referenda which express the views of citizens. Rowley did not reply. Supporting the right to recall, Ramadhar said, “We do not want to have to wait for the next five years but want to have an empowered electorate.”

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