Daly: Criticism of Senator Dillon-Remy motivated by ignorance of simple majority rules

The media  and others were plainly wrong to inform the population that the government needed only one ‘yes’ vote from one of the nine Independent senators, in order for the government to succeed in its proposal in the Senate to amend the procurement legislation. 

The government was seeking a simple majority for its proposal. In that case, from the moment the first abstention on the final vote occurred, the government was home and dry—even if all the Opposition Senators and the remaining eight of the nine Independents voted against the proposal.

Photo: Independent Senator Dr Maria Dillon-Remy makes her contribution during debate on the Miscellaneous Amendments (Powers of Statutory Authorities and Matters related to certain Boards) Bill, 2020.
(Copyright 2020 Office of the Parliament)

According to the constitution, in order to secure a simple majority in either House of Parliament the proposer requires the support of ‘the majority of the votes of the members thereof present  and voting’.

An abstention is neither a vote for or against a motion requiring a simple majority.  It is separately counted and reported on to the presiding officer. It is not tallied among either the yes or no votes. In the instant case in the Senate, an abstention therefore had the same effect as a yes vote.

There are other reasons why criticising Senator Dr Maria Dillon-Remy for her ‘yes’ vote in colourful language and by meme is not acceptable, but the causation for  passage of the government’s amendment to the procurement legislation cannot be her action alone. The abstentions of her colleagues on the independent bench did the trick for the government.

Please, Senator Dillon-Remy, stay strong and courageous in your convictions. Brush aside the abuse you have suffered. It is motivated by ignorance of the requirements of a simple majority vote, which are expressly different from the requirements of a special majority vote.

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About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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One comment

  1. Thank you Mr Daly, I have been reading, in total confusion, the comments made about the Dr Dillion-Remy’s vote being the vote that tipped the outcome in the Government’s favour. My confusion stemmed from being unable to understand how such a conclusion could have been arrived at based on the reported pattern of voting.

    Based on the above, I suggest that you clarify your statement when you say that abstaining had the same effect as a ‘yes’ vote, as that may also be taken out of context. I assume that you mean as there are 31 Senate votes in total (if the President uses her casting vote), and if the 15 Government Senators vote ‘yes’ (as they did), then there are only 15 possible votes left. If one of the 15 left chooses to abstain, that leaves 14 possible votes – not enough for the Bill to be voted down, even if they all vote ‘no’.

    All the above assumes only a simply majority is required. Sadly, I think reporters assumed that because Dr Dillion-Remy’s vote was one of 16 ‘yes’ votes, and 16 of 31 is a simple majority, it was reported that Dr Dillion-Remy’s vote ‘tipped the balance’ in the Government’s favour.

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