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Al-Wari: ‘Poll contrived by the Govt’

By Joan Rampersad Monday, August 25 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Faris Al-Wari...
Faris Al-Wari...

Asked to comment on the Government-commissioned MORI poll showing majority support for the runoff and other provisions of the Constitutional Amendment Bill, Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) Senator Faris Al-Wari said yesterday that the MORI poll was contrived by the government.

He said: “Trinidad and Tobago has been greeted with the publication of two polls this morning. The MORI poll and the MFO poll, and a comparison of the methodology utilised is significantly different. Firstly, in so far as the sample size and secondly the disaggregation or selection of that sample size does not appear to cover a wider base.”

Al-Wari explained that a disaggregation by way of education, income bracketing in particular, that is beyond race, age and gender would have been more compelling. However what the pool demonstrated to them was that it appears to be a contrivance on the part of the government which will persuade the country that there is some degree of comfort with a bare majority of the population.

He stated: “When one compared the MORI poll to the MFO poll, this MFO poll has produced an opinion diametrically opposed to the MORI poll in that it demonstrates that over 85 percent of the population is not prepared to deal with the issue and requires further consultation, while over 55 percent of the MORI poll not even knowing what the Bill contains in it. What these things demonstrate is that the peculiarly small sample size has produced seriously skewed results. So you have two polls diametrically opposed to each other. It just demonstrates that the poll was rushed.”

Al-Wari added that the PNM is clear in its objective that this Bill ought not to proceed, and that there is a desperate and proper need for further consultation. “We remind the population that the objections to this bill centred around the very producers of the report. Two members of the Commission have come out openly in the public domain to say that this bill is a betrayal of the people and has demanded a halt to the debate,” said Al-Wari.

Echoing some of the PNM Senator’s sentiments was civil activist Kirk Waithe who said: “No comment on that poll. Our focus is on stopping the runoff Bill, and we are not going to be distracted by any poll.”

He added: “No government must be allowed to interfere with, alter, or change our Constitution without meaningful consultation with us, the people. That is why we are going to be outside the Parliament from (this evening) holding vigil in advance of the debate, and hopefully by the time we leave the Bill would have been stopped.”

Independent Liberal Party (ILP) leader Jack Warner quipped: “The government can get any pollster to give them what they pay for. I am unimpressed with it.

“The poll is so scant on information. Who comprise this 54 percent? Moreover, if even the poll were to be taken seriously, no one should be happy with that approval rating.

“How can anyone have a serious and sensible view about something they don’t understand? I am unimpressed.”

Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah, who is away on a short holding with family said that he hadn’t seen the poll and therefore could not comment on it, but according to a statement from the Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communication, Vasant Bharath yesterday, he noted that the MORI findings have provided sound evidence that most of the population is in favour of constitution reform. It added that the statement reaffirmed Government’s commitment to proceed with debate in the Senate tomorrow to deliver on its promise to put more power into the hands of the people.

Bharath stated: “In addition to expansive consultation, we also established and closely monitored feedback channels to keep abreast of the thoughts of people, and it was on the strength of that kind of information that the Government intended to proceed with measures to apply term limits for the Prime Minister, deliver the people’s right of recall and second ballot runoff voting.”

He added: “The MORI poll has provided the empirical data to confirm our findings; that at least 55 percent of the population agreed and want more power over the governance process and politicians.”

Further analysing the MORI data, the Minister said: “What is also very important to note is that 50 percent of the people agree that reforms would improve the quality of life, and 55 percent agree reforms would help improve the way TT is governed.”

The President General of the All Trinidad General Workers’ Trade Union, President General Nirvan Maharaj, an Attorney at Law, also jumped into the fray, expressing his view that an initial analysis of the contents of the Bill together with research on the system proposed seems to indicate to him, that there is no substantive provision in the Bill that makes it worse than the “First past the post system” or violates or denies a citizen his democratic rights under the Constitution to exercise his right to vote or to support a political party of his choice.

He said: “In the absence of any empirical evidence to show that this Bill undermines any of our constitutional rights to universal adult suffrage and/or any of the elements of the rights enshrined in Part 1 (4) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago then the opposition to the contents of this Bill seems to be based on mere speculation and assumption on what may or may not happen and wild and unsubstantiated allusions to the race bogey.”

He added: “It is my view that most of the opposition levied against the content of this bill are simply opposing for opposing sake. The Jury is however out on the process used and whether a simple majority is all that was needed. This can only be tested in a Court of Law.

“However in lieu of Proportional Representation being achieved in the House perhaps this bill is a step in the right direction.”

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