Home / View Point / Kamla’s August term: Examining the PP’s proposed Constitutional reform

Kamla’s August term: Examining the PP’s proposed Constitutional reform

I want to believe that August is Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s favourite month…or maybe every August she feels the need to shake things up.

August 2011 she gave us the failed State of Emergency.

August 2012 was the sneaking in of the proclamation of Section 34.

August 2013 was the Proportional Representation Bill.

And now August 2014, just when I think the Parliament is on vacation, and I can take a break from worrying about the health of our Constitution under this Government, Kamla hits me for six.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. (Copyright AFP 2014/Frederic Dubray)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Frederic Dubray)

It is a two-fold strike. Persad-Bissessar is attempting to make good on an election promise; and at the same time ensure her political survival by enshrining in our Constitution the ingredients for a two-party state.

Trinidad already suffers from five decades of tribal voting, with the two largest ethnic groups firmly supporting either the PNM or the UNC. Swing voters and fence sitters usually eschew voting or wait for whichever newly formed third party branding itself as “one love”, “new politics”, “having integrity”, “people-centred” etc comes around.

Swing voters insist that they vote issues, not race. Intriguingly enough, the current Third-Party-in-Residence, the COP, seems to have lost its voice when it comes to issues of corruption and integrity in public life as it gazes at the population smeared in Treasury gravy from eyebrow to elbow.

The key things that should be noted about the latest proposed amendments to the Constitution are as follows:

  1. Fixed Prime Ministerial terms in office,
  2. The Right to recall MPs (Section 49(2) of the Constitution),
  3. Supplementary Poll or Run-Off in the aftermath of a General Election (Section 67 of the Constitution).

A Fixed Prime Ministerial term is a new addition to the Constitution and so requires adding a clause to the Constitution. It is dealt with only briefly in the Explanatory Note to the suggested amendments: barely 2 short paragraphs.

The suggested fixed term is 10 years, 6 months: either continuous or interrupted. If this amendment is passed, it means that no past or future Prime Minister, Persad-Bissessar included, can serve more than 10 years and 6 months in office. However, they are still free to serve as MPs for their constituencies or as Ministers etc. The limit affects only the office of the PM.

Photo: Former Prime Minister Patrick Manning has already served two terms.
Photo: Former Prime Minister Patrick Manning has already served three terms.

What this bill allows for is this: any PM we have, good or bad, can only serve two terms. This  might help us avoid the threat of maximum leadership; but it also means that should we get an effective leader, his/her term is limited to ten years. So succession planning within political parties becomes extremely crucial now.

The longest section of this Explanatory Note deals with the Right to Recall a Member of Parliament. It goes into great detail, explaining how one can petition, the requirements, the roll of the Elections and Boundaries Commission.

And after poring over the almost 2 pages given over to explaining this amendment, I call BULLSHIT… and here’s why.

1. Anyone petitioning for the right of recall of MPs has to be both a registered voter and RESIDING in the constituency. Interestingly enough, our Constitution doesn’t make residence in a constituency a prerequisite for voting.

In fact, not even MPs need to reside in their constituencies. But if you are going to petition to recall your MP, you’ve got to be RESIDENT in the constituency.

If passed as is, that’s loophole number 1 staring you in the face because person’s signing the petition must sign a declaration confirming residence within the constituency…

Editor’s Note: Please click HERE to read the conclusion of this blog at Eternal Pantomime. 

AboutRhoda Bharath

Rhoda Bharath
Rhoda Bharath works as a lecturer by day and remains obsessed with politics by night. Follow her blog here: https://rhoda-bharath-jxtv.squarespace.com/

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8 comments

  1. pnm supporters like d tribal politics. laventille will still sh.. in outhouses tks to d pnm. u people would not c d good things blinded by race. stay in bondage an slavery with rowley. dis govt has broken all record with delivery. so let pnm supporters eat dey heart out. licks like peas again in 2015

    • Yes they delivered…They delivered the treasury on a platter to their friends family and tribes as they are accustom and you are happy with that. Party and gluttony first and country long after. smfh.

    • I’m just wondering if any other party has tried to fix this if it is truly the case? Have you ever been to laventille to inspect each and every toilet to come up with this statement? Are you Guyanese by chance? Tell me, what are the names of the tribes involved?

  2. if d pnm did serve d 43 yrs dey were there. kamla would not hav top clean d sh.m

  3. well said Denice.! we know the lady well.

  4. If she had just ‘served the people, served the people, served the people’, rather than ‘fooled the people, fooled the people, fooled the people’, there would be no need for this dangerous chicanery to desperately hold on to power and get fatter on that rich treasury milk…

  5. Scotty Ranking

    Madness in print …do they take the electorate for fools? Really? #bigfriggingsteups to this proposal!

    • The PNM does take the electorate for fools

      and they are very correct in their assumptions ….

      they did not win so many elections because the electorate is smart ….

      6 months ago the PNM were proponents of the run-off system. They hailed it as democratic and boasted themselves the most democratic party in the country by enshrining it into their constitution . They sought to reverse their label as least democratic by implementing this “First World System” of democracy ….

      NOW ..
      all of a sudden everything they said 6 months ago is a LIE .. Run-offs are now unfair and undemocratic ….

      So who is the liar? 6 months ago PNM or now PNM ?

      well the PNM is 100% correct to treat the electorate like fools, because the electorate supports the PNM from 6 months ago and the PNM now EQUALLY …
      and the electorate accuses the PP of trying to be dishonest ….

      if the electorate had any brains…

      they would realize the PNM either lied then or now…
      but even if you can’t figure out which time they were lying and which time they are telling the truth
      I am 100% PNM is lying to them !
      and they like fools just lap it up as they have been doing since 1956