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Call to protest bill

NATASHA BECKLES, [email protected]

Call to protest bill

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PORT OF SPAIN – Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley is calling on nationals to “rise up” to protect democracy in Trinidad and Tobago as the government signalled its intention to go ahead with the debate on Monday to amend the Constitution to allow for “significant” changes in the traditional way of choosing a government.
In a television address on Friday night, Rowley, the leader of the main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM), said that the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill which will provide for a two-term limit for a prime minister as well as the power to recall legislators was a recipe for disaster.
He said the bill, which will also make provisions for a run-off in the event that a successful candidate at a general election failed to win 50 per cent of the votes, was also designed o keep a government in power, even if it lost the general election.
“I would like to invite every citizen to rise up and join us with vigilance and conviction in protecting, again, our democracy.
“I invite every citizen, every group, every association, regardless of your age, gender, race, religion, political affiliation, geographic location or social standing to join us and band together in seeking to stop this open attack on your democratic rights and freedoms to select and vote for a party of your choosing and not be forced or fettered by law to vote for one that is not of your primary choosing.
“I invite you to reject the chaos and confusion that the runoff law would cause in our democracy, which could see more than a dozen “run-offs” being conducted after the first poll of a general election,” Rowley told television viewers.
“But most of all I invite you to look at the governments abusive track record of deception and insincerity and ultimately examine the insidious intent of this ‘runoff’ law and reject it as the panicked and desperate actions of a party trying to hold on to power at the cost of removing your democratic freedom of choice.”
But Attorney General Anand Ramlogan told reporters that the debate will go ahead as planned on Monday and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, who chaired the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC), said, “I do not really see any tremendous arguments for us, preventing Constitution reform from going forward.
“The train is now leaving the station on constitutional reform, it is in movement, it is in motion and we will pass this … this Government is quite serious about its promise for constitutional reform,” he told the Trinidad Express newspaper yesterday.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, who will table the bill in Parliament tomorrow, urged citizens to support the initiative, saying it did not come “like a thief in the night”, but was part of her government’s manifesto.
“Be not afraid,” she added as her government yesterday released the CRC report and the addendum.
But at least two members of the CRC have called on the government to halt the debate and allow for more public discussion on the issue. (CMC)