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Citizens do not rule T&T—Part 2

Published: 
Friday, September 28, 2018
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No matter how much attention we pay to parliamentary proceedings, what is said there does not come from us and if we are dissatisfied with what our so-called representatives say or how they vote, there is NOTHING we can do about it.

Wait till the next election and vote them out, that is what they will tell us and that is all our Constitution permits.

We have no control, as electors over elected representatives at national or local levels.

In 2014, in the first major attempt to amend our Republican Constitution, after a very well-attended consultative process, a bill to amend the Constitution went to Parliament. Included in that bill was a provision to introduce the right of recall of elected representatives by electors.

That was the first attempt to begin to give electors some level of control over the elected.

Sadly, that bill was rejected by 41 MPs—whether they were for or against they voted based on their party or individual positions because not a single one of them ever discussed the contents of that important bill with their constituents.

The Opposition voted against. Some government MPs voted against or abstained because they did not agree with a run-off clause that was included by the UNC because they feared Jack Warner's ILP.

The bottom line is that without a single MP acting based on the opinion of his/her constituents (citizens), the citizens were denied the right of recall and any measure of control over the very same parliamentary representatives.

So, when the PM in his Republic Day message says that "We cannot hold our leaders to account if we are ignorant to the quality of their representation" (by paying attention to what they say or do in Parliament), he is being less than faithful as a representative.

He knows full well that there is no mechanism for holding our representative to account.

NO ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING

The PM concluded his message with this statement: "A truly Republican state requires the involvement of all us working together to protect and maintain the fundamental human rights and freedoms that have been entrenched in the Constitution."

What he did not say is that our Republican Constitution does NOT give the majority of the society, its citizens, any role or involvement in decision-making about all matters that affect their lives and that affect their rights and freedoms entrenched in the Constitution.

Parliamentarians and Local Government representatives are not required to represent the views of those they are supposed to represent; nor are they accountable to them.

By his statement about a "truly Republican state", the PM has unwittingly confirmed that apart from removing the Queen as Head of State and having a ceremonial President with 'powers you think I have, I don't', our Republican Constitution has not vested sovereignty in the citizens of this country but in the Cabinet and Parliament.

The parties in the Parliament and their MPs do NOT represent the citizens but represent their parties and the interests they do serve.

What this, and our experience, tells us is that after 56 years of Independence and 42 years of Republican status, our Constitution still does not vest sovereignty or decision-making power in the people of T&T.

Our project Independence and nation-building project has a lot to do to put sovereign control of our affairs in the hands of the people.

We must strive even harder to create a Constitution based on 21st-century definitions of rights, of sovereignty, of power and accountability if we are to accomplish the goals of 1962 and create a “truly Republican state” as described by the PM in his Republic Day message.

Clyde Weatherhead

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