THE anxious and incoherent response of the Opposition Leader, Dr Keith Rowley, on constitutional reform has so far presented the best arguments in favour of reforming the national constitution to put greater power into the hands of people.
This, according to Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communication, Senator Vasant Bharath in a statement issued Saturday.
Minister Bharath was responding to a message to the nation by Dr Rowley on Friday evening, and said: “His incoherent rambling on Friday evening demonstrated how deeply afraid Dr Rowley and the PNM are of a population that knows its protected rights, and is intelligent enough to use those rights.”
“Dr Rowley is clearly panicking at the thought that constitutional reforms will force him and his party to place the views of people over the views of his party. And his address on Friday was a pitiful and clearly frantic attempt to blur the facts because he and his party thrive on fear and domination.”
Minister Bharath added: “Every single claim he made bore no relation to fact or reality. He is attacking the reforms that were developed by an independent commission, based on extensive consultation across the country, and is bullying the people Trinidad & Tobago to accept his constitutional reforms, which were sneakily developed by only PNM officials. That is what they did in 2006 and that is what they did again in 2014.”
“In everything that he has said, the sensible people of Trinidad & Tobago can see clearly Dr Rowley believes more democracy is a threat to him and his party. That is an indictment on him and his party and he has unintentionally revealed the threat that he poses to the people of our country.”
Dismissing the Opposition Leader’s feigned surprise, the Minister pointed to the fact that members of the PNM participated in some of the 21 consultations held over a significant period of time. “It must be noted that the former Senator Penelope Beckles-Robinson and MP for Diego Martin Central, Dr. Amery Browne, attended and participated in the Arima and Diego Martin public consultations.”
“Despite being aware of the constitutional reform report, and his own members participating in the process, what Dr Rowley told the nation on Friday evening is that he doesn’t care that the majority of people want term limits for the Prime Minister, the right of recall and voting that will ensure all elected officials must secure majority support. What the nation wants is not important to Dr Rowley, he is only concerned with the PNM’s hunger for domination.”
Addressing concerns on second ballot run-off voting, Minister Bharath said: “Dr Rowley is trying to con the nation into thinking that second ballot run-off voting will create instability. But Dr Rowley must answer why he sat quietly and was happy to be part of an illegitimate Cabinet in 2002.”
“At that time, what Dr Rowley’s PNM did was to abuse grey areas of the constitution and cling to power for 10 months without Parliamentary scrutiny. And that was one of the more unstable periods in our history. Yet now, when we see new measures to prevent such an atrocious attack on democracy, Dr Rowley has refused to support them.”
“What Dr Rowley is hiding is that had there been second ballot run-off voting in 2001, the country would never have had to bear the burden of a dictatorship of which he was proudly part. Had there been second ballot run off voting in 2001, the people would have had the power to ensure that the Government was legitimate and represented the majority.”
The Minister underscored the success of the system in countries such as France, Costa Rica, Portugal and some states in the USA. He stated that second ballot run off voting encourages careful thought by citizens and discourages tribalism, adding that it expands democracy.
He added: “It is unfortunate that our country and our citizens have matured to a stage where they demand power over the system of governance, but Dr Rowley and the PNM have consistently fought the need the change and improve. Vision scares Dr Rowley. Ideas scare Dr Rowley. Consultation and the will of the people…these things are what Dr Rowley is most afraid. He still believes that the PNM must dominate the people and impose a political stranglehold on our country.”
“These are the reasons why Dr Rowley is trying to confuse the population by deliberately misinforming the people. He wants to dominate people by fear and will do everything he can to prevent citizens from having power over politicians.”