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Rowley: Runoff Bill splits the vote

By JULIEN NEAVES Tuesday, August 19 2014

OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley has described the Constitution (Amendment) Bill as the embodiment of “don’t split the vote,” and is advising the Independent Bench to consider that the bill, which will be laid today in the Senate and debated on August 26, was not supported by the entire Cabinet.

“I would say to all the Independents...just take a look. Any prime minister that cannot get the Cabinet to agree to a measure, such a measure has no place in the Parliament. They couldn’t even get the Cabinet to agree to it. So I’m waiting to see how the Independents can agree to it,” he said.

He was speaking with the media following the public consultation “Towards Tobago’s Autonomy” held at the University of the West Indies Teaching and Learning Centre, St Augustine.

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lower House at about 4 am on August 12 and the vote was 23 Government MPs voting for, 14 against and one abstention, Congress of the People MP Rodger Samuel. Those voting against comprised 11 PNM Opposition MPs, Chaguanas West MP and Independent Liberal Party Chairman Jack Warner and, breaking rank, COP MPs Winston Dookeran and Carolyn-Seepersad-Bachan.

On August 26, the Government only needs one of the nine independent Senators to vote with them for the bill to be passed in the Senate. The bill contains three provisions: right of recall for MPs, two-term limits for prime ministers and a runoff election if a candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the votes in a constituency. The run-off provision is the most contested with the Opposition and other public figures expressing concerns that it could remove third parties from the race.

Speaking on Sunday, Rowley was asked to comment on the Law Association calling for debate to be stopped and the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) reporting that they had not been informed about it.

He replied: “None of this should be surprising to anybody. This bill has been the product of a little cabal around the Prime Minister. It was clear to us that there were many people in the Cabinet who were unaware of it, and we not even clear how it got to the Parliament. So what the EBC said we (the Opposition) pretty much knew that. It is the work of a strategic committee of the cabal, and it is not about Trinidad and Tobago.”

He continued: “We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - it’s the UNC campaign strategy to try and hold on to government by winning the collection. They come up with a scheme to screen out vote splitters. It’s the embodiment of ‘don’t split the vote’.”

The PNM last night held its second public meeting on the bill at Skiffle Bunch panyard, San Fernando.





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