…constitution reforms to give power to the people
TERM limits, right of recall, run-off ballot voting and fixed dates for Parliament are the changes being made to the nation’s constitution to transfer the power of politicians into the hands of people, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said on Monday.
Telling the House of Representatives that the reforms represent the “will and desires” of citizens gathered over 17 consultations in both Trinidad & Tobago, the Prime Minister said: “We have had our fair share of leaders who continued to rule and refused to give way even though it was obvious that the time for change had come. This can suffocate new talent and stifle a democracy.”
Saying that the reforms will deliver more power to the people to influence the future of governance, the Prime Minister said consultations were held across the country and the report represents what the majority of people have asked for. “It is what people want,” the Prime Minister told Parliamentarians.
On new provisions to recall non-performing elected representatives, the Prime Minister told the House: “The right of recall does not yet exist at Westminster and so this is a very bold step. It may well be that Trinidad and Tobago may lead the way for Westminster because we would be the first Westminster-style democracy that will be adopting the right of recall.”
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar also focused on provisions for run-off voting, telling the House of Representatives that such a system will give more power to people and stakeholders of minority parties.
“The voices of the minority would be respected even as effect is given to the will of the majority and, every single vote would matter and count as the possibility of voting a second time will breathe new life and meaning into the democratic process.”
The Prime Minister also put forward reforms for fixed election dates, saying: “Long gone would be the days of silly boasts and taunts about leaders ‘having the date in their back pocket’. This provides clarity for the population at large and enhances the ability to participate in our democratic life, for all will know the electoral timetable.”
The Prime Minister added: “We are keeping those promises to place power, and greater power, in the hands of the people.”
On March 2, 2013 a National Commission on Constitutional Reform (NCCR) was established to “engage in the widest possibly consultation as a pre-requisite to constitutional reform”. The Commission was chaired by the Honourable Member for St Augustine, the Minister of Legal Affairs, Prakash Ramadhar and included Madam Justice Amrika Tiwary-Reddy, Mr Justice Sebastian Ventour, Dr Merle Hodge, Dr Hamid Ghany and Mr Carlos Dillon.