Home / Live Wire / Decoding the Constitution: Live Wire solves riddle without big words

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. But realistically, all that act does is require them to disclose their assets. It does not prevent someone from enriching a third party by awarding dubious contracts. So what exactly would this protect us from?

    To me, the FIU is far more important in terms of being a watchdog for illegal wealth gains.

    As for pursuing the assets, that would be one possible solution. It isn’t as straightforward as you might think though.

  2. I know you’re much more knowledgeable about this than I am. But the fact that the Gov’t has its hands ties further strengthens Afra’s claim that the CLICO execs should be registered by Gov’t agency. Not that you didn’t say it was a good idea of course.
    If it is impossible to get out of the deal, then my next step would be using the courts to try to seize assets from the CLICO big boys. And I know they have loads all over the world.
    There would be a firesale.

  3. “the Government ruled that a MP can only be removed between the third and fourth year of his or her term.”, On this ground alone, the proposed legislation is simply worthless.

  4. Right now Argentina has no access to international capital markets after defaulting on Bonds a decade ago. They offered $0.30 on the dollar which was rejected. The matter landed up in court and is still to be resolved.

  5. Bro, am both learning and laughing from this piece,

  6. As I said, the problem is that you are not understanding the scope of the problem and the danger to the economy it represented. CLICO could not be allowed to fail. You also cannot rewrite contracts unilaterally. Trying to bully the investors and policy holders to a schedule not grounded in the law isn’t a solution either for obvious reasons.

  7. Okay Kendall. If the government could not get a favourable deal and the investors were not willing to write a new contract. Then Clico would crash and I would look for other ways to safeguard the economy from the fall-out.
    Either that or the money would have been repaid in small installments over 30 years or so.

  8. That is true Lasana but our children will continue to pay the price of this for a long time to come.

  9. Thanks for the clarification Patricia.

  10. Well, I wasn’t pointing a finger at this administration at all with regards to that. Clico went belly-up under the PNM.

  11. I think that you are also not quite understanding the nature of the problem that a CLICO collapse would have caused. That however is an entirely different discussion. Could the bailout have been done differently? Perhaps. Did it need to happen? Yes. Should Duprey and his cast of characters paid a price for bankrupting the institution? Absolutely.

    However, that didn’t happen in this case though that is not unprecedented as the same thing happened in other supposedly more advanced jurisdictions.

  12. It doesn’t work like that Lasana. Once the government stepped in to keep CLICO afloat, it was obligated to settle its debts. They could propose whatever plan they felt feasible but once it became a court matter, they had to abide by ruling.

    This was a matter adjudicated by the court and as such, it is folly to blame the government. The rule of law presided here as it should. I may not like the outcome, but this was about a poorly written contract that had to be honored rather than government corruption.

    The current administration has a lot to answer for but this particular issue isn’t one of them.

  13. Surely the Government could have negotiated better then Kendall. Not so? In principle, if you’re bust and I’m helping; then shouldn’t I be the one to call the shots?
    Especially when we are talking about taxpayers money rather than a corporate takeover.

  14. Excellent piece Lasana Liburd. I felt that you quite adequately dealt with decoding the contents of the bill in layman’s terms; the ‘what’. These points however should have had the opportinity to be in the public domain and fleshed out by the citizens BEFORE being debated in Parliament. That leads me to my major concern, i.e. the way in which the government pursues its legislative agenda; the ‘how’. This bill is being branded as “power to the people” yet the people did not on any occasion have the opportunity to consider or debate the “runoff” provision. Without meaningful consultaltion and participation, the premise of “power to the people” is extremely deceptive or fundamentally flawed at best. 41 people are going to debate this bill that 26 appear to be hell bent on passing, but when did my voice or Mr. Live Wire’s voice factor in to the decision making process of the 26? The facade is so poorly structured that Stevie Wonder will soon be weighing in on the issue. We have been lobbying for quite some time through civil society for the government to deal with governance issues: public procurement, campaign financing, the powers of the DPP appointment of the CoP etc.. Electing a government by whatever means we decide, is not going to solve the fundamental issue of piss poor governance. A pattern has seems to have developed over the past few years where on the eve of an election the government attemts to introduce legislation that seeks to act as a double edged sword. On one hand the legislation is used as an enticement to garner public support and on the other, as an attempt to change the rules of the election to gain an advantageous position. The strategy is to start playing All Fours, then change the rules when the opponent hits 12 so that they find themselves engaged in a game of Go to Pack instead. I cite the the Tobago House of Assembly election and the Local Government election and this new fiasco as examples. While there is virture in pursuing devolution of power with regard to Tobago and proportipnal representation, I contend that the legislation was hurriedly (and poorly) drafted and rushed through in order to fight elections and not to properly govern the people of Trinidad and Tobago. If the government is prepared to ignore the ‘people’ in pursuing its legislative agenda, one has to wonder whether its true slogan is “PowertothePP!”

  15. I can say categorically that you’re quite correct Kendall.

  16. It was therefore not the decision of the government to pay those policy holders in full – I recall they offered a payment plan for much less – but a contractual obligation of CLICO. I would presume that the court judgment would clarify the basis of the decision.

    I have clients who lost money in the CLICO debacle so I can say categorically that not everyone escaped losses.

  17. I was also a bit confused about the querying of the EFPA Policy holders being paid because that issue was settled in the courts.

    http://m.guardian.co.tt/news/2013-03-13/clico-policyholders-win-case-300m-payout

  18. I read the link and was more than a but surprised to see that ruling was given. I did some checking but was unable to see controlling interest defined in such a manner either in the UK or USA context. It would be very interesting if that ruling was upheld.

    Secondly, since the ruling was appealed, I am not certain that any precedent can be taken from that. If I am right – lawyers should chime in here – then Afra would be incorrect to assert that CLICO Directors should be subject to Integrity in Public Life Act.

    Before any idiots try to jump down my throat, let me be clear. I am NOT saying that such accountability wouldn’t be a good thing. Just that from a legal perspective, it isn’t an enforceable requirement if the ruling of the judge is overturned.

  19. Show your class Merle. Don’t let those from the gutter drag you down with them.

  20. Gaiven Clairmont

    one of the best you’ve ever done and honestly that Prakash bit about being the first Turkey to vote for Thanksgiving was PRICELESS, as always keep up the great work and it was very well decoded bro

  21. Cannot be paid more than you originally deposited and a lot of ppl lost money. He could not have meant that.

  22. Ok – see now the entire comment was a quote. Punctuation (really lack thereof) threw me off.

  23. My name Kendall Tull? Surely you jest. With regards to the bailout, I took it that he meant that it covered more than what they put in.

  24. Didn’t realise your name was called by Anand Lasana. I try not to listen to him as much as possible.

  25. I just did and while it was generally good, there were some parts that I would question such as the CLICO bailout being unprecedented. Bailouts of banks generally were done to ensure the solvency of the financial system and most depositors did recover significant portions of their funds as was the case here. Where I have a concern is that the individuals who caused the collapse got off scott free and some persons seem to have benefited from prior knowledge of what was happening long before it was announced.

    I also didn’t quite get the part about CLICO Directors not filing with the Integrity Commission either because it isn’t a state company and thus not subject to the act. I don’t recall the terms of the bailout so I could be mistaken.

    Lack of transparency and accountability are definitely our major problems as well as the fact that our current pool of politicians seem to have no moral centre.

    I

  26. If it is any consolation Cassia Henry, I really think those politicians are faking stupidity about 80 percent of the time. But then that means something worse.

  27. Hello Kendall,

    One of the unique aspects of our bailout was that depositors/investors were treated to the Public Money in our Treasury….in the UK, USA and Europe, the depositors and investors lost-out….our generous Cabinet in January 2009 agreed to pay all the creditors of CL financial….effectively using Public Money to rescue adventurers at the very edge of the financial universe….

    CL financial has been under State control since the Shareholders’ Agreement of 12th June 2009, which entitled the State to appoint the majority of Its Board Directors…as a result of that they are obliged to file declarations to the Integrity Commission…this article refers….http://wp.me/pBrZN-11K

  28. I listened to it, it was awesome and such a tall drink of water listening to something of true political intelligence. Im so fed up of these politicians, they sound so uneducated to me at times and I really wonder….

  29. Crick Crack, monkey break somebody back. Sorry, couldn’t resist

  30. I wondering now if them is true at all or they pulling a Daniell.

  31. Micheal Bruce got me thinking about Lotto winners yesterday!

  32. You making me think about all them lottery winners yes!

  33. Merle Hodge: Were we “handsomely paid”, Mr. AG, for us to be silent on this kind of dishonesty? Very unfortunate comment, Mr. AG, for it suggests that your government pays professionals not for their work, but to buy their acquiescence. You must know that you will never be able to buy everybody.
    As for the convoluted gossip that the AG has made up about me and the COP 2014 internal elections and Mr. Dookeran and my speaking on a COP platform in 2010 (yes I did – it is not a secret – but what does that have to do with constitution reform?) – all of this only further discredits the AG, not me. The AG seems unable to sustain a logical and reasoned level of debate. He descends very quickly into personalized disrespect and vilification. Very immature behaviour, Mr. AG. God help our children looking on.

    • Scotty Ranking

      And with that the crux of the matter is laid bare! You really can’t buy out everybody! One must buck and rage against the machine! But what is more disturbing is this: an “independent” committee submits a report to the government, who then surreptitiously adds on a section that pushes their own agenda, yet tries to pass it off as the committee’s original work? And expect people like Merle Hodge to silently and willingly comply with that intellectual dishonesty?

  34. All this talk about all these manufactured issues while they quietly sell off our national patrimony to the Germans. Haven’t seen anything said about the sale of the CLICO Energy holdings by anyone. Are people aware of this?

  35. So will the President assent to a bill that the public clearly doesn’t want? Will the COP MPs vote to kill their political careers (not that it would be a great loss)? How far will the people of Trinidad and Tobago go to protect their democracy? I am watching with great interest to see how this resolves itself.

    Seems to me that this has provided the perfect distraction to prior issues.

  36. We can have ten parties. If someone gets 11 votes and someone gets 12, the person who gets 12 wins. The end.

  37. Essentially, that’s how I view it Fayola. Third parties are neutered as disruptive elements. So the COP is now officially as potent as its leader.
    That and term limits.
    Otherwise, nothing changes.

  38. Ok. So from what I understand, this is really to avoid splitting votes? So should we just have a 2 party system and done the joke?

  39. Agreed.All we need are persons of integrity to SERVE the people,not themselves.What we have are the hordes of Attila the Hun ,where they pass no grass grows.

  40. I am totally for firing a minister who is playing the ass. And a petition with 250,000 is a good enough representation of the will of the people. Firing an MP for not performing after the 3rd year? Seriously? That was suggested? Insert stupes or other colorful verbs if need be..

  41. To me and the average voter nothing is wrong with the current system. All we really need is a PM with basic sense to serve the will of the people when our dis-satisfaction gets loud. We don’t need to complicate basic voting procedures. What we do need is to make sure that PM doesn’t become defacto kings and in power for decades. Not that it has happened in recent elections but in case..

  42. ‘Prakash is the first turkey to vote for Thanksgiving…’. You could not have said it any better than that!

  43. Dude, I need an Excedrin Migraine after reading this one. Quote of the day: “the first turkey to vote for Thanksgiving”.

  44. “But Prakash was the real boob job here” ROFL ah love itttttttt hahahaha … I got a headache when I done read but well done Mr Live Wire as always 🙂

  45. I dare any of the commentators in the dailies, big words and all, to do better than Mr Live Wire, who insists that he is no constitutional expert, has done here in making us all understand what is really going on.

    Great work!

  46. Scotty Ranking

    As Allrounder sang in Dimanche Gras back in 1998 – “it have plenty wares in this Cabinet that eh serve de peepul yet!