Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Commentary: What's so wrong about discussing PR?

"...proportional representation is a dagger aimed at the heart of the PNM..." Eric Williams
The gloves are starting to come off in the battle for the leadership of the People's National Movement (PNM).

So far there is only one challenger to Keith Rowley - Pennelope 'Penny' 
Beckles-Robinson. And Rowley is telling his party members that she is not supporting PNM policy and should not be trusted.

The issue that seems to have touched a nerve for Rowley is Proportional Representation (PR). Penny stated recently that she doesn't have a problem taking a closer look at Proportional Representation as an alternative to the present system of electoral politics in Trinidad and Tobago.

The draft constitutional proposal circulated for public comment recommends PR for electing a Senate. The system was used in the Local Government Election (LGE) for the first time to elect aldermen. 

The PNM opposed the PR bill when it went to Parliament and the PNM has stated clearly that it would never support PR. Rowley's position on it is very clear: he stands by the party's policy.
On Monday he took aim at Penny for saying she is prepared to accept proportional representation as long as there is proper consultation. Speaking at a political meeting the PNM leader said that's not acceptable. "You going to agree to execute yourself as long as there is consultation on it? Which turkey votes for himself to be eaten at Thanksgiving?" he asked.
He pointed out that the founder of the party strongly opposed PR. "Eric Williams understood it very clearly, and he said to the people in a marathon session in Parliament that proportional representation is a dagger aimed at the heart of the PNM by those who can’t fight the PNM politically. And that is fundamental PNM policy,” Rowley said.
Williams was right about PR working against the PNM but he was wrong about it being a tool for those who can't fight the PNM politically. 

PR is a more democratic system than the present first past the post system and gives the electorate greater control over choosing their representatives. Williams was afraid of it for that very reason.

He stayed in power mainly because of his divide and rule policy, which depended on the creation of new parties. The records show that the PNM is weakest in a straight political fight with a single opponent. It happened in 1986, 2000 and 2010.

In 2007, a splintered opposition vote using the first past the post system gave the PNM 26 seats although it did not win a majority of votes. If the same voting results were applied for electing the Parliament with a PR system the structure of the 9th Parliament would have been very different with the PNM in a minority position, which is exactly what the electorate voted for in that election. 

Read related: Democracy in Portions? - Analysis by Ajay Parasram

"I ask you not to compromise the PNM’s position," he said, adding that Penny is not someone to trust because her ideas on the subject of PR are in conflict with the party's. He suggested that she might be pushing someone's agenda. "I am in no­body’s pocket. And I am nobo­dy’s boy," he said. 

What about democracy? 

Rowley is saying is that there is no room for fresh thinking within the PNM, no room for discussion or change. That sounds like a forumla for creating a dictatorship. Perhaps that is why Penny said at the start of her campaign that she wants to change the perception of the PNM as a cult. 

A political party that shuts off dissent and refuses to embrace change cannot be truly representative of the people and cannot be trusted because it is effectively saying it places no value on what the people think. The "not a damn dog bark" philosophy is apparently alive and well in the PNM and Rowley is committed to keeping it so. 

The PNM cannot rise or take Trinidad and Tobago forward with that kind of retarded thinking.
Jai Parasram - 12 March 2014

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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