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Ramesh: President can veto Constitution Bill

By STACY MOORE Friday, September 5 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Former attorney general, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj....
Former attorney general, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj....

PRESIDENT Anthony Carmona has the powers in his hands to determine whether the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 becomes law by his decision to either giving assent to the bill, or veto it.

This was yesterday revealed by former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj who said the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago gives the President the right to veto legislation passed by both Houses of Parliament.

Maharaj is of the view that the President must have extensive discussions and consultations with groups and individuals in order to “properly exercise his discretion whether he should assent to the Bill, or veto it”.

The former attorney general was speaking at the launch of the “Democracy Watch” at a press conference at his office on Irving Street, San Fernando.

The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2014 was passed on Thursday with amendments after three days of debate. The bill has sought to provide fixed terms of office for a Prime Minister (two terms and six months), right of recall and a run-off vote to ensure members of the elected House of Representatives receive 50 percent of the vote before entering the House. However due to amendments, the bill will now return to the House of Representatives for approval of Senate changes. “If grounds exist for the president to withhold his assent to a Bill, but the President proceeds under an error of law to assent to the Bill the actions of the President can be challenged in the Supreme Court.” he said. Maharaj further added that the Bill can be reviewed by the Court on well established principles of public law.

In such circumstances the former attorney general said he would have acted without jurisdiction to assent to the Bill. The Judicial Act No.60 of 2000, gives the right to an aggrieved individual of the public or public spirited organisation to take judicial review proceedings to challenge the actions of the President. “In any event the President in assenting to a Bill, or withholding his assent is doing a legislative act, and not an executive act as anticipated under Section 80 for the President to act on the advice of Cabinet.”he said.

He noted that the implementation of this Act of Parliament , if assented to by the President is likely to make the public become suspicious of the integrity of the result in the next general election.

If the President, according to the attorney- at-law does not assent to the Bill, such Bill would not become part of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago. “Section 61(2) of the Constitution provides that “when a Bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall signify that he assents or that he withholds assent”.Maharaj quoted. Adding Section 61(a) of the Constitution is not made subject to Section 80 of the Constitution, but provides that the President shall act in his discretion either to assent to a Bill or withhold his assent. “It is crystal clear there that the President of Trinidad and Tobago under the Constitution has this right to veto legislation.”Maharaj said.

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