Moonilal expects lively Senate debate
By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, August 14 2014
HOUSING Minister, Dr Roodal Moonilal, expects a lively debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 on August 26. He told reporters yesterday at a Ministry function at the Old Fire Station, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain.
“One has to of course give time for the bill and the amendments to be properly circulated to all members of the Senate...The Independent Senators will read and study the proposals.”
He foresaw a “full and lively debate” where Independent and Opposition Senators can raise issues, and engage the Government.
“The wider society is also weighing in and this is very good for us.” He said the United National Congress (UNC) will discuss the bill at its next Monday Night Forum at Gasparillo.
Moonilal alleged bullying by the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM).
“I’m wary and very concerned that the Opposition PNM will not use this period to bully, or intimidate, or harass members of the Independent bench into voting one way or another. I took note of this attempt now by members of the PNM and their affiliates to identify Independent Senators, point them out, and in a way intimidate, harass, and bully,”
Moonilal lamented the PNM supporters outside Parliament at the end of last Tuesday’s Lower House debate. “They were there at 4.20am to jeer and harass members of the Government when they were leaving the Parliament. It’s a matter I’m taking up with the Speaker.”
Should the bill be withdrawn after its rejection by three Cabinet Ministers?
“Absolutely not,” said Moonilal. “The Prime Minister made the unprecedented move to call for a conscience vote, which permitted those MPs to unfetter themselves, speak their views, and vote in accordance with their conscience which they did. Two voted against the bill, one abstained and other members of the COP including their political leader supported the bill.” He hailed the PM for the conscience vote.
Newsday asked if the Government should heed the conscience of its members and persons like Dr Merle Hodge? “Sure, as the Government should listen to the conscience of the 23 people (MPs) who voted for it,” he quipped, saying many of his constituents back the bill.
He said the people will decide on the bill.
“There’s a tendency in the community to under estimate the intelligence of ordinary people. We have had three elections in three years in this country and people didn’t get tired; they voted. We have had a system of aldermen by proportional representation; it worked, people understood it, and there are Opposition parties who benefitted.” He expected the public to understand the details of the run-off, as he vowed to continue to educate the public.
He accused the PNM of backing “electoral apartheid” and fearing “majority rule”.
“They are in support of the minority voting and the minority having its way. They are in mortal fear. I felt we were pulling out the lungs of the PNM by putting majority rule.”
Newsday asked if the bill turns all elections into two-way fights, to help the UNC grab COP/ILP votes, to the PNM’s detriment?
“Absolutely not,” said Moonilal. “The PNM has won many elections with a majority, and in a run-off election why do people assume that persons who voted for a third, fourth and fifth party will naturally vote United National Congress?”.
He asked if PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley has no faith in his Senators Avinash Singh, Diane Baldeo-Chadeesingh and Faris Al-Rawi to sway multiethnic votes.
How does he see the Senate debate?