Sunday, September 8, 2013

Parliament passes amendment to have Aldermen elected by PR

The House of Representatives has passed the Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Bill with a vote of 22 for an 10 against. The bill, which required a simple majority, introduces a system of proportional representation (PR) in the selection of aldermen for Local Government bodies.

The People’s National Movement (PNM) voted against the bill, claiming the there was no prior consultation on it. Jack Warner, interim leader of the Indepen­dent Liberal Party, and St Joseph MP Herbert Volney, were absent when the House voted on the measure.
It goes to the Senate for debate on Tuesday, where it will pass as well because of the government's majority. Thereafter it would require presidential assent before becoming law. All this is expected in time to guarantee the system is in place for the October 21 Local Government Election (LGE). 

Works Minister Suruj Rambachan piloted the bill on Friday and closed the debate noting that the PNM had refused to introduce any local government reforms although they postponed the LGE three times under the pretext of working on reforms. Rambachan said the PNM has always rejected PR because the party's founder, the late Dr Eric Williams, 
had described PR as a dagger in the heart of the PNM.

Rambachan said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar showed leadership when she decided to introduce PR. "That is leadership in action,” he said about the PM's desire to make the constitutional change. "Integrity is when you close the gap between what you promise and what you do. And the Prime Minister has closed that gap,” he added.

In his contribution to the debate Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar said the bill lifts a "darkness" that covered the nation by the failure of successive governments to institute reforms.

He called the bill a first step in constitutional reform and added that more is to come. Addressing the PNM, he said, “When this thing is unleashed on you the old statement that we would fight alone, lose alone would be irrelevant...Proportional representation would be part of the next gene­ral election!" 

The PNM didn't like the sound of that and reminded the Legal Affairs Minister that in order to change to PR for the 2015 election the government would have to get a constitutional majority, which it does not have. The government has 27 members in the lower house and 16 of the 31 members in the Senate. Their vote alone would not be sufficient to pass a major constitutional amendment.

Ramadhar has always lobbied for PR and he made the point again when he spoke on the amendment.

“Were we, the COP and the People’s Partnership, to have taken the view that we should leave things as they were, then the world and society would have moved forward while the politicians remain as dinosaurs, which is what the PNM wants us to be,” Ramadhar stated. 

He knocked down the PNM's argument that PR would create instability. "They want the stability of not a damn dog bark. The days for that are over,” the COP leader said.

Ramadhar also rejected the statement by the PNM about a lack of consultation. He said the government held 70 constitutional reform consultations and across the country there was support for a PR system in each instance. 

Ramadhar also made a bold statement in support of PR. "I say in this sacred hall that if it is not done, I would have no part (in government) because my purpose in the Government would have failed," he said.

In the 2007 general election COP won 148,000 votes but did not win a seat while the PNM with twice that number won 26 of the 41 seats, in effect winning a strong majority although the majority of the voters rejected the party.

In a PR system that would not have happened and the voice of 148,000 would not be silenced because of flaws in the first past the post (FPTP) system of government.

That issue was raised by AJAY PARASRAM in February 2008 and remains relevant today. In his commentary DEMOCRACY IN PORTIONS, he exposed the flaws in the FPTP system and supported PR as a more representative and more democratic electoral system.

Please read the commentary by clicking on the link:

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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