Saturday, April 6, 2013

Letter: Time to abolish appointed senators

The recent debate over the granting to soldiers powers of arrest demonstrates the need for the urgent redrafting of our Republican Constitution, which will see an unelected Senate replaced by an Upper House of Representatives for whom the people have voted.

Trinidad and Tobago cannot continue to have a Senate that is unelected, yet is able to defeat legislation that has been passed by the elected members of the House of Representatives.

No one has voted for these Senators yet they possess the ability to shoot down legislation as they please. How could this be right in a democratic society? Who are these nine Independents that they can make or break a government? They have no mandate from the voters of this country.

Unlike the House of Representatives the number of Senate seats is fixed so it is unlikely that the configuration of the Senate reflects the configuration of the House. In this tenth Parliament, the PP has 29 of 41 seats in the “Lower” House, which is a 70 per cent majority yet in the Senate; the government has 16 seats of the 31, only 51 percent of seats. 

The difference in percentages determines the success or defeat of the Defence Force bill which needs a two-thirds majority. I recommend to the roundtable on constitutional reform that Trinidad and Tobago adopt a bicameral system in which both Houses are elected by the people.

The events of this week were disheartening to the majority of voters who support the use of soldiers in the fight against crime.

Who are these nine people with the power to stop the duly elected Government from doing its job in the interest of over 400,000 who elected this Government to office. Who voted for Corinne McKnight, Subhas Ramkelawan, Victor Wheeler, Helen Drayton, Elton Prescott, Harold Ramkissoon, James Armstrong, Rolph Balgobin, Lennox Bernard? Who voted for them?

As we consider constitutional changes we must look at this issue. If we need an Upper House to keep an eye on the Government, we should elect people to do so.

In my view it is outrageous to have all these unelected and highly paid individuals, whether appointed by the Government, the Opposition or the President making far reaching decisions that stymie the work of the elected members of Parliament. Let them all face the polls and stop this utter nonsense.

In England, on which our system is based, the appointed House of Lords no longer has the right to knock down law passed in the elected House of Commons.

In 1911, a Bill was passed in England removing the power of the Lords to vote down legislation passed in the elected House of Commons.

This followed a 1909 decision by the Lords to vote down the national budget. All the Lords can do now is try to delay but they can’t stop a vote passed in the elected House of Commons. We should follow that precedent.

Martin Melville | 

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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