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Decoding the Constitution: Live Wire solves riddle without big words

Mr Live Wire tries to illuminate discombobulated citizens without big words on the constitutional positions of the UNC, COP and PNM; what it means for Independents; why Prakash Ramadhar is a self-hating turkey and who won the last Lotto Plus:

Photo: We ent taking that just so!
Photo: We ent taking that just so!

Take the second left, then right, then what? I’m lost!! Mr Live Wire, you could explain this constitutional reform thing for me without them setta big words?

The Government picked five persons (the Constitutional Reform Committee or CRC) to talk to the people and then provide suggestions to create a limit for how long someone could be Prime Minister and a way to fire MPs who are not doing a good job.

The second bit caused the bacchanal. You see the CRC decided that if a MP was not supported by more than half of the voters in his constituency, he might be fired on the first day of the job, which could be chaotic. So, if no candidate has 50 percent of the votes on election night, there would be a runoff election in two weeks to decide who has the majority support.

Pay attention to this bit: The CRC recommended that any MP could be fired once more than the number of persons who voted him now wanted him out.

 

I see Anand and Merle cussing one another; so I know something devious happening. What going on, man?

Well, there are two sides to this. One consideration is what the CRC Report means to voters. And the other is what it might mean to the supposed smaller parties like COP of which the CRC chairman Prakash Ramadhar is the political leader and Merle Hodge is supposedly a foot soldier.

Let’s look at what affects the wider public first. I pointed out that any MP could be “recalled” once more than the number of persons who elected him wants him out.

So, in the case of Anil Roberts, he was elected by 9,541 voters, which was more than half of the votes cast. So it would take 9,542 D’Abadie/O’Meara voters to get rid of him.

Photo: Former Sport Minister Anil Roberts.
Photo: Former Sport Minister Anil Roberts.

But when the Bill arrived in Parliament, a theoretical petition to remove Minister Two Pull suddenly needed support from “at least two-thirds of all the persons who, on the date of issuance of the petition, were registered voters in that constituency.”

The devil is in the details. Eighteen thousand and forty-seven people voted in D’Abadie/O’Meara during the 2010 elections; but the number of registered voters was actually 26,019.

So, instead of 9,542, a successful petition now needs 17,346 voters, which means almost every single person who cared to vote must support a decision to remove him!

 

Oh gaddo! Is section 34 again! So wait nah; Anand doesn’t need Volney around to pull a fast one on the people then?!

I wasn’t finished… Not only must two-thirds of the total number of registered voters back the move to fire the Minister; but those voters must also “still reside in the constituency.”

The Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) does not even have such a list and, according to the Bill, lacks the resources to create one.

So not only would someone trying to get rid of Two Pull have to be better at campaigning than the defeated PNM candidate for the area; he or she would need more resources than the EBC to create a new electors list. And all within a 21-day deadline!

 

But that is like finding a needle in a haystack?!

Worse. It is like finding an honest man in Parliament!

Photo: I only changed it this much...
Photo: I only changed it this much…

But I still wasn’t finished. Even if someone was able to get all of that done, the Government ruled that a MP can only be removed between the third and fourth year of his or her term.

You know how much damage could be done in three years?!

Look at how LifeSport squandered over $400 million in just two years. After three years, SPORTT might be so broke that Keshorn Walcott would be throwing mango branch instead of javelin!

 

Geezan… So that Bill is a waste of time then; we could never tick all those boxes to sack cock-ups like Anil?!

Actually, even if you did tick all the boxes, Anil could still survive as Sport Minister.

 

Eh?! Live Wire, I come by you for a simple explanation not to confuffle me more than the AG! Ah mind ah give you a lash in yuh…

Wait, let me explain. When people were calling for Anil to be sacked, they didn’t really mean as MP; they meant as Sport Minister. This Bill doesn’t address that or provide a way for voters to tell a tone deaf Prime Minister when they no longer want someone in Cabinet.

The Prime Minister could still theoretically appoint a recalled MP as a Senator and we are back to square one. Look Jack Warner is still a MP and who cares? That is Chaguanas West’s business. We just wanted him out of Cabinet.

Photo: Believe you me, ma'am; I wish I had World Cup tickets to sell you! Jack Warner (centre) is Chaguanas West's problem now.
Photo: Believe you me, ma’am; I wish I had World Cup tickets to sell you!
Jack Warner (centre) is Chaguanas West’s problem now.

Oh ho… But isn’t there an assault on our political system somewhere?

You’re referring to the runoff elections. On election day, we go to the polling station to elect our leaders and that won’t change. A runoff to ensure each MP has support from more than 50 percent of voters will only delay the outcome for two weeks; and Trinidad and Tobago did not implode in 2001 when we waited on ANR Robinson to decide the next Prime Minister after an 18-18 stalemate at the polls.

 

You didn’t hear Rowley say this is serious business here? How come you saying something different? You holding back or what?!

A divided opposition traditionally suits the PNM, which has never been part of a coalition. And that is what we have at the moment with the ILP at loggerheads with the People’s Partnership and friction between the UNC and COP.

So, strategically, it suits the PNM to keep the system as it is for the next election, which will force the UNC to find common ground with the COP and/or ILP or lose.

But when has horse trading between political parties ever suited the electorate? The COP promised to be the conscience of the PP before the last general election and has been unconscious ever since.

Photo: COP political leader and Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar.
Photo: COP political leader and Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar.

Besides, the potential of a runoff allows the electorate to vote strategically. You see, any vote that doesn’t go to the eventual winner is considered a vote against him or her.

For instance, if I prefer the PNM to the UNC but I like my Independent candidate, I can vote for Uncle Errol and know that I can change my allegiance in the runoff. If Uncle Errol got 500 votes that might have gone to the PNM, the UNC still has to defeat the PNM by over 500 votes to get majority support.

If that doesn’t happen and Errol is eliminated after the first round, I can switch back to the PNM. So now, Errol can get some numbers on the board and maybe save his deposit or use his improved figures to get some momentum for his next charge at the polls.

 

If I only find the street address for Wired868, it will be me and you! You can’t explain that a little better?!

If there are 2,000 votes, the winner must get at least 1,001. If Om Lalla (COP) or Errol Fabien gets 500 votes combined, Ian Alleyne (UNC) got 800 and Terrence Deyalsingh (PNM) got 700, you might feel like voting for Errol or Om means that you have to put up with a blasted alleged representative for four years.

But now you get a second chance to select between Deyalsingh and Alleyne. So, in theory, you can vote with your heart and then your head.

Photo: Talk show host and comedian Errol Fabian ran, unsuccessfully, as an independent candidate in St Joseph.
Photo: Talk show host and comedian Errol Fabian ran, unsuccessfully, as an independent candidate in St Joseph.

Yeah but what would it cost taxpayers? And is it really an improvement?

It would cost less than staging the Miss Universe or building an additional football stadium in towns that don’t have a single professional team.

Still, this is a more convoluted mechanism than is used anywhere else. Most other countries ask voters to select a second and third choice in the ballot on election day and then tally those votes if no candidates gets to 50 percent.

But this creates other problems. For instance, if PNM and UNC voters cannot stand each other and all vote for Errol as the second choice; then what?

Or what if one side plays strategic and doesn’t cast any second choice ballots in the hope of picking up stray ballots from the other side?

Consider this though: Even with this amendment, if the persons who did not vote on election day decided to join the opposition’s ranks, most MPs can still be recalled as soon as the law permits even if they retained all of their voters.

So, even if this bill is well-intentioned, it does not solve the problem it sets out to.

 

So Live Wire, you ent see that the UNC lick up the COP before the general elections?! Let us call a spade a spade; you don’t find that was a diabolic move from the AG?

Personally, I think the COP has done a much better job of destroying itself than the UNC ever could; and the CRC Report is just another example of that.

It is true that Anand put down some serious nip and tuck on the Report. But Prakash was the real boob job here.

As committee chairman, Prakash signed off on a Report which insisted that MPs must have more than 50 percent of the votes cast. He should have known what that meant for the COP.

And now, after 15 months of deliberations, he and Merle bawling “tips play over” as if they playing pitch?

Prakash will go down in history as the first turkey to vote for Thanksgiving. No wonder he still can’t figure out how to save masqueraders from the copyright bacchanal for four straight Carnivals!

Photo: Pssst... Prakash!
Photo: Pssst… Prakash!

Well, since you feel you know so much, what would be your suggestions for constitutional reform?

I think the main problem in this country is that the watchdogs have no teeth or nutrition and don’t get let out of the kennel.

Give the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Integrity Commission (IC), Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and so on their own budgets and independent full-time investigators and ensure that their appointments are non-partisan.

Introduce legislation to protect whistleblowers and to ensure proper procedure in procurement, abolish preliminary enquiries and fast-track cases involving corruption.

In an excellent TEDTalks presentation in February 2013, Joint Consultative Council (JCC) chairman Afra Raymond suggested that the expenditure of public money without accountability and transparency is equal to corruption.

We have to ask harder questions and ensure we get appropriate answers.

 

Slow down… What does all that mean?

Who is the “one lucky Lotto Plus winner” that won $14 million from NLCB last Wednesday? What will it take to satisfy you that our lottery money hasn’t actually been swindled for umpteen years?

Photo: Eh?!
Photo: Eh?!

Once you can satisfy yourself about that dilemma, apply it to everything else in the country and you’re on the right track.

 

Waaaaay…

Consider yourself, live-wired!

 

Editor’s Note: Mr Live Wire does not even resemble a constitutional expert and only passes the bar when he is thirsty for inspiration; no big words were harmed during the making of this blog.

About Mr. Live Wire

Mr. Live Wire
Mr. Live Wire is an avid news reader who translates media reports for persons who can handle the truth. And satire. Unlike Jack Nicholson, he rarely yells.

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68 comments

  1. The Truth About “Power to the People” – Deconstructing The Constitution Amendment Bill

    The state circus surrounding the “Power to the People” campaign only serves to dupe the masses into acquiescing to greater political exploitation by offering false, inconsequential political choice.

    Amendment 1: Term Limits for the Office of Prime Minister
    A mere distraction to appear self righteous and sacrificial, while at the same time transferring the power of appointing the Prime Minister to political party leadership and financiers.

    Amendment 2: The Right of Recall for Members of Parliament
    This proposed amendment is farcical as it attempts to give the public the impression that they will be granted the liberty to remove MPs when warranted; however in reality the amendment is a dead letter i.e. legislation that is in reality unlikely to be used, irrelevant and inapplicable because of bureaucracy, red tape and the narrow time window through which it can actually be applied.

    In addition the petition which must be “verified” can and will be used to identify dissenters who will be vulnerable to victimization. Note also that the ultimate arbitrators of this process are supposedly “independent” branches of government itself namely the EBC and the speaker.

    Amendment 3: Second Ballot Run-Off Voting
    The true intent of this amendment is to further entrench a two party political system where alternative political views, parties or movements are automatically deemed irrelevant. This approach offers another way in which obedience, political tyranny and exploitation is engineered -by offering a false choice.

    Conclusions
    Once the population subscribes to this political gimmickry they will have even less grounds to complain about poor governance as after all; they were given the chance to choose.

  2. Mr. AG should realize that I want my 3 seconds in the polling booth every five years to be meaningful: a recording of my opinion on the candidate that would perform best, or the associated party that would perform best. I would then have earned the right to then sing praises for a job well done, express disappointment if not well done; note that my choice would have been better if another candidate wins the popular vote and does not perform. I would not be forced to instead spend six seconds in the polling booth and possibly be forced to select a candidate that I had previously excluded from my preferred choice, or abdicated right to choose my representative as my true choice would be excluded from my next three seconds of voting at the polls.

    Mr. AG should also recognize that even if my candidate’s party is not selected, my 3 second choice of party is still expected to represent my possibly opposing view, and that the controlling party( or coalition) must not be seen to be disrespectfully bypassing the process to allow this to be done.

    Mr. AG should realize that my influence does not end with my three second vote, I will agitate, petition and protest government action that is not right, or is indicative of a power grab; and remember for my next opportunity at the polls when supposedly critical constitutional changes are somehow not at all critical after an election and allowed to lapse.

    I will be diligent for the period between elections. I will remember issues and attitudes and not let election rhetoric unduly affect my vote.

    I will remember…

  3. Just read the piece with the Ramadhar interview. Got through half of it and stopped. Look what 30 pieces of silver can do to a man. Sell out!

  4. I can’t exactly recall but i think it was about three yrs ago. But won’t surprise me if they find a way to skim some off for themselves. That’s a lotto money.

  5. I don’t know if and when it was ever legit. But I know there are so many dodgy boards operating that I won’t assume NLCB has the only honest one.
    I’m skeptical of all until proven otherwise.

  6. I think the lotto was legit up to May 2010, now I have some major reservations, all these roll overs, amounting to massive jackpots, consecutively over a 4 year period. Lasana Liburd, I think you need to contact your friend Watson.

  7. I wonder what year she won… Thanks Debbie. I’ve certainly never known a Lotto winner. Nor any of my friends or relatives to my knowledge.

  8. Sorry to tell your’ll but my best friend knows the person who won the 16m lotto a couple years ago from Ellerslie Plaza. So i guess that’s it for me. She can’t know two people who won the lotto. Was always suspicious until this as i also met her friend from time to time and know her Son well. So it’s legit folks.

  9. These look like Disney Characters

  10. People may have also been willing to entertain certain provisions if this proposal was brought by the government December 2010. Maybe even Decemeber 2011. But you wait 4 years do your thing and then suddenly care about democracy and vote splitting and all kinda cock and bull story. Timing in politics is everything, this government playing smart with stupidness..

  11. Very sad. COP voted him as its leader. So that’s what they have to swallow now I guess.

  12. I read that interview and should I say that it confirms the generally held opinion of the man? If he were a contortionist he would have knotted himself to the point where he could not undo the move without medical assistance. Sad.

  13. Prakash says you cannot win a constituency with a minority vote. But I guess you can be Political Leader of Political Party with the vote of 3% of the membership, having decided not to block voters who hold membership in both COP and UNC. It really hard to talk and eat at the same time.

  14. Prakash Ramadhar Express Q&A:
    Political analysts as well as your former colleague Jack Warner share the view that the run-off will destroy third forces in the country. Are you not concerned that the COP would be affected by the run-off vote?

    There is nothing called a second force or third force after election night. You either win or your lose. Is that healthy for the democracy? That is the first question you must answer. Does this new proposal give an option that improves the democracy? You can’t win a constituency with a minority vote, you have 20 per cent or 30 per cent of the vote, there is 70 per cent voting against you, but you win because there is a split. Nobody has more than your 30 per cent, you may have 28 per cent and you lose. Is that a healthy thing? The answer must be no.
    If it is we want to have democracy which is a true majority taking power, then this is an improvement on the old system, so those who say it is designed to destroy third parties and so on are those who are not willing to work to gain the favour of the electorate. They want an easy fit by splitting and shifting because the vote is so split that you come in. That is the opportunity they want, minority empowerment, and that is wrong. We believe you must earn your right in the politics to say I have a majority.

    The run- off vote was the brainchild of the commission?

    Yes, it is in the report.

    Do you share Dr Merle Hodge’s view that the run-off mechanism “directly contradicts the principle of proportional representation which is a central recom­mendation of the CRC Report”?

    She’s entitled to her view. I say in the environment where proportional representation is not now available to us because of what the PNM has said and it will come as a bill and the country will see who supports it and who does not. What do we do in the circumstance, just leave it and do nothing to strengthen the democracy? We had by increment or otherwise to improve on the democracy in the country.