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PM hits critics for ‘mass hysteria’ over Runoff Bill

Tuesday, August 19 2014

IN THIS country leaders want to hold on to power until you have to drag them “screaming and kicking out the door”, said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

She also dismissed as “mass hysteria” that passing the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 will cause riots or turn the country into “the Gaza Strip”.

She was speaking last night at the UNC Monday Night Forum in Gasparillo. She noted the forum has returned and the party plans to hit every corner of the country and tell the people what the Government has done and will continue to do.

“More power to the people. These are what the reforms are about,” she said.

She was defending the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 which was passed in the Lower House last Tuesday. The Bill provides for two term limits for Prime Ministers, right of recall for MPs and a runoff election if a candidate does not win more than 50 percent of the vote in a constituency.

She said the two-term limit for prime minister is to give younger persons a chance. She noted the People’s National Movement and political leader Dr Keith Rowley are against term limits and Rowley had no problem with the late Dr Eric Williams as Prime Minister for 25 years.

She questioned whether Rowley wanted to serve for 25 years and noted would be a “nightmare”.

“We must ensure Rowley doesn’t get one term, much less two terms,” she said.

She said some commentators predicted that if the Bill becomes law she will lose the election.

“But these people have never supported the Government. But they see we are lasting throughout this whole term,” she added.

She said to her “detractors” when she keeps her promise with the Bill the People’s Partnership will win in the 2015 general elections. She noted that the Partnership way is not the PNM way and their promises will materialise.

She pointed out that in the United States and Guyana, their presidents cannot serve more than two terms and right of recall exists in a number of jurisdictions.

She said reforms are important and are the best way to achieve the “long held national dream of power to the people”.

Persad-Bissessar said the Partnership wants to ensure democracy is in favour of the people so no politician could speak down or threaten them. She questioned the gathering if they have a problem with right of recall and they said, “No”.

On the runoff provision she noted it prevents the election of a “lame duck” MP who has less than 50 percent of the vote and the MP will be a target for recall. She said the majority rule will provide more power.

She noted that there are valid concerns by some and “hysteria” by others.

She said her detractors have spoken of “fire and brimstone” and the country will become like “the Gaza strip and Afghanistan” and Rowley had called on the people “to rise up”.

“Some would say that he is inciting,” she added.

She said there are members of civil society with different views who are not saying stop the bill, like the Law Association, which is saying delay the debate. She noted that she deferred the debate in the Senate to August 26 so there is time for persons to submit their views. She told supporters to not get carried away and believe there is a “mass of persons” against the Bill, noting those against it are Rowley and the PNM and “recycled politicians”.

She noted 91 countries have right of recall and this country will become the 92nd.

She reported that articles in the Jamaica Observer, Barbados Nation newspapers had praised the efforts.

On the Elections and Boundaries Commission she noted they reported that they were not consulted but that also occurred with the Alderman Bill in which proportional representation was introduced for last year’s local government elections.

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