PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The main opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) said it would vote against legislation to introduce proportional representation in Trinidad and Tobago, and has accused the coalition People’s Partnership government of “naked political expediency”.
PNM and Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking on television here Monday, said opposition legislators would not support “this sleight of hand” strategy by the Kamla Persad Bissessar led government.
Rowley said the opposition would vote against the Local Government Reform bill that comes up for debate on Friday and accused the government of seeking to undermine local government bodies even before its members are elected by the population.
Last week, Prime Minister Persad Bissessar announcing the October 21 date for the Local Government elections said her administration intends to introduce the concept of proportional representation that has been advocated as a fairer and stronger system for several years.
“The idea was that parties should have a slate of Senators that is known beforehand to the public at a general election. Seats in the Senate would be allocated in accordance with the number of votes cast for a party…. It will represent a historic foray into the virgin territory of proportionate representation which many feel, is an idea whose time has come.”
The Prime Minister said the policy needs to be implemented to further democratize and strengthen the local government bodies in such a way as to allow the electorate greater control over the election of all persons who would hold office in all of the Councils.
An Alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council.
Rowley said while he expected the government to use its huge majority in the Lower House to pass the legislation, he was hoping that the legislators in the Senate, that also includes independent legislators, to vote against the measure.
“This government should be sent back where it came from,” Rowley said, telling viewers that he had been approached “by a number of people asking him to explain to them what is proportional representation, what it means and what is going to happen.
“And that tells me the people are being asked to accept something that the government hasn’t even bothered to make them understand..and there is no way the PNM is going to support this arrangement,” he added.
Meanwhile, interim leader of the newly formed Independent Liberal Party (ILP) Austin “Jack” Warner said the party would organise public demonstrations if the legislation is passed.
Warner, a former national security minister in the Persad Bissessar government, described the attempt by the government to pass the legislation as “obscene”.
“I will organise a grand march in this country,” Warner told viewers, promising also to burn effigies of the government legislators.
“This is wrong, six weeks before an election, this is obscene,” he said, asking whether or not the government has not learnt from the experiences of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections and the Chaguanas West by-election.