Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Government leaders in Parliament, Security chiefs brief Independent senators on defence bill

Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj, right, Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson, left, and Independent Senator Rolph Balgobin leave Parliament following a meeting with Roodal Moonilal and Ganga Singh.
Government House Leader Roodal Moonilal and his counterpart in the Senate Ganga Singh met Tuesday with seven of the nine independent senators to update them of the defence bill which goes back to the Senate next week.

A high-powered security delegation joined the government officials, including Chief of Defence Staff Kenrick Maharaj, Brigadier General Anthony Phillips-Spencer, Major Sheldon Ramnanan and Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson. 

Helen Drayton, apologised for her absence through Subhas Ramkhelawan; Harold Ramkissoon did not attend.

This type of lobbying is unusual for Trinidad and Tobago although it is a common practice in respected democracies like the United States and Canada where high level officials meet with legislators to get support for bills.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Dookeran noted that when he sent greetings to those at the meeting, stating that it deepened the democratic process.

The Government needs 19 votes to pass the legislation. The PNM has already said it would vote against it, having already done so in the House of Representatives where it was passed with the strong government majority,

However it only has 15 votes in the Senate and needs the support of four independents.

Local media reports said three senators - Victor Wheeler, Dr Lennox Bernard and James Armstrong - did not say if they were convinced that they should support the legislation. The Express quoted them as saying: "We had a good meeting”.

The paper said Ramkhelawan left before the meeting was over and insisted that he was not impressed. "I am a supporter of joint police/army patrols. What I am not a supporter of is giving the powers of carte blanche arrest to the Defence Force," he told the Express. "Nothing that I heard in the discussions today (Yuesday) reinforced the idea of giving powers of arrest of the police to members of the Defence Force.”

Singh described the meeting as an interactive session with the Independent Senators. He said if necessary he would do the same with the PNM senators since “it is always beneficial for them to move from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance”.

Moonilal said said it was the first time in history that a Government had taken this approach of engaging members of the Independent Bench. He added that the objective of the meeting was to clarify issues and to develop on some of the points that the Independent Senators raised during the debate.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai