Thursday, September 12, 2013

Senate passes PR bill; Presidential assent is next stage to make it law

The Senate has passed the Municipal Corporations Amendment Bill division that introduces Proportional Representation for electing aldermen to councils on the basis of votes cast in the local government election.

And according the local media reports there were no dissenting voices when the vote was taken.

This is how the Express newspaper reported the matter:

"According to Senate Presi­dent Timothy Hamel-Smith and Government members, the Opposition did not register any dissent when the vote on the measure was recorded. 

"Hamel-Smith said he heard no dissenting voices when he had put the bill to the Senate, asking, “All those in favour?”. The paper quoted the Senate President as saying, “I was very surprised,” in reference to the fact that he heard “absolutely no nays whatsoever”.

The bill needed a simple majority to pass. There are 31 senators - 16 government, six appointed by the opposition and the other nine by the president. That gives the government an automatic simple majority.

However with Hamel Smith, a government senator, holding the post of President, it means the government is one short of a majority so one additional vote was required.

But with no dissenting voice and no division taken, the bill appears to have passed with no dissent.

This was a shift in the position of the opposition that voted against the bill in the lower house, one that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan called a “monumental shift” in the PNM’s position in the Senate. 

"I am elated that the bill was passed without any dissenting voice. And I compliment the Opposition and Independent bench for supporting this historic and revolutionary measure that will widen and deepen the concept of participatory democracy by giving each vote additional meaning and significance," the Express quoted Ramlogan as saying. 

"It means that votes cast for the losing party will now have some say and some sway, whereas hitherto they were virtually excluded from the political process and left to languish in the political wilderness."

The PNM doesn't agree with that position. The Express said the party claimed that six PNM senators had said they would not support the bill and that Faris Al-Rawi claimed that he said “no” when the Senate President put the bill to a vote. 

He also claimed that he Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, and “a couple of Independent senators as well” register a dissenting vote. He also claimed that the President denied his request for a division.

For his part Hamel-Smith told the media he heard some “mumbling about a division”, just before the adjournment, coming from an independent senator who did not ask for a division but who just asked if there would be one.

The Express reported that Hamel-Smith as sating that no one had called for a division, noting that the members of the Senate know that there is no automatic division when a vote is taken. Someone has to call for it and according to Hamel Smith, that did not happen.

A division after a vote registers how each member voted instead of relying on the traditional "ayes" and "nos". This piece of legislation required just one vote from a non-PP member.

This how the Newsday newspaper reported the story:

In the end, the senators suffered a major embarrassment when they ironically failed to realise that a vote was being taken on the election reform legislation. They failed to cry out “no” when asked for their vote by Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith; failed to call for a division to allow them the opportunity to have votes recorded senator by senator; and also missed their chance to call on the Senate President to invoke the Standing Orders allowing them a second bite at the cherry in taking the vote again.

"By the time some senators realised what had happened, the ship had sailed, the Senate was adjourned and the legislation was on its way to President Anthony Carmona without any dissent to it being formally recorded on the Hansard for posterity."

And the Guardian reported it this way:

At least one Independent Senator, Elton Prescott, said afterwards he had not intended to vote for it, as did PNM senators, but during the last stage, Prescott missed his cue to call for a division count and the bill was passed. Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith, after the final process, said the “ayes” had it. It was passed without amendments. When Prescott rose to ask if there was to be a division, Hamel-Smith said “no” and that there had been no request for a division count.

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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