Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No House Vote for Tobago Bill:What's the Sense?

The Constitution (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill, 2013 will not be put to a vote when the House meets to debate it tomorrow. It would instead be sent to a Joint Select Committee (JSC). This Committee would then be responsible for wider discussion and consultation. 

Most people believes that this is another case of "Cart before the horse". How can you debate a Bill and then seek to send it to a JSC? shouldn't the reverse happen? 

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley have insisted that the PNM would not be supporting the Bill unless a Tripartite Committee is formed. “We are parliamentarians. We have been called out and we going to Parliament to engage in a marathon debate...But what they have done is unacceptable. And we are not encouraging the United National Congress (UNC) in its nonsense. 

“If you want to amend the Constitution there are ways and means of doing so. But they want to go and amend the Constitution as part of their election campaign,” Rowley said. 

Rowley also believes that the Government was vulgar in its approach and further stated Tobago must be involved in the process. 

The Bill must receive the support of 32 out of the 41 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the elected House. As such the Government which has a total of 29 MPs must have the support of at least least three Opposition MPs.

However, for it to be sent to a JSC the Government only needs a simple majority and can do so comfortably  The JSC would then study the Bill, make amendments and send it back to the House where it would once again be debated before a vote is taken.

The Bill seeks to amend the Constitution  enhancing the legislative and executive powers of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) with a view to promoting the internal self-government of Tobago. Additionally, the Bill would grant the THA powers to make laws for areas of governance under its jurisdiction and for the peace, order and good government of Tobago, so long as the laws are not inconsistent with a law made by the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament. 

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