Playing with Fire

By Raffique Shah
August 09, 2014

Raffique ShahBy insisting on going ahead with certain constitutional amendments that many, if not most, citizens find objectionable in the extreme, the Government is mischievously playing with fire. Knowingly, the trio of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar are leading the charge of a dark brigade that could well see the society rent asunder by political strife than allow reason to prevail.

Why are they courting a societal implosion, the consequences of which are unimaginable?

The only reason I can think of is desperation to remain in power. There is a high probability that what remains of the People’s Partnership (PP) will lose power in free and fair elections, if they are held under the existing provisions in the Constitution. They were soundly beaten in four elections in 2013, and nothing has changed for the better since to suggest that they could stem the tide of discontent.

Therefore, if they can’t win by fair means, they will change the rules of the game, move the goal posts in ways that might give them some advantages, although I do not envisage even that happening.

The most objectionable of the changes they want to introduce is a provision that calls for “run-offs” between the two leading candidates in constituencies where the winner gets less than 50 per cent of the votes cast.

Note well that people are hardly objecting to the so-called “two-term limit” for a prime minister, or even the right to recall a non-performing member of Parliament, as complex as the process for the latter may be.

It is the voiding of the will of the electorate, because that’s what this “run-off” is about, that has sparked outrage. It is this undemocratic measure, which the trio are touting as the essence of democracy, that has galvanised people with backbone to stand up and say, “No way!”

I would like Kamla, Anand and Prakash to tell the population where, among countries that elect governments by popular vote, even on a proportional representation basis, does such mechanism exist. I know there are “run-offs” between the two leading presidential candidates in the main political parties in the USA and a few other countries.

In fact, in several countries where an executive president is elected directly by the people, such provision exists. But I do not know of one instance in which there are “run-offs” at the district or constituency level.

In India, the biggest demo­cracy in the world, where 300 million-odd electors voted recently over a month-long period to elect a government, no such provisions exist. Indeed, the new BJP government headed by Narendra Modi won 282 of 543 seats, polling a mere 31 per cent of votes cast. There were no riots by the 69 per cent who supported the Congress and other parties, only to see them lose the elections. Mr Modi is getting on with the business of governing the country quite nicely, even better, I should add, than others who in India’s past won by resounding majorities.

So, whence came this “run-off” mischief that the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) inserted, not in its final report, mark you, but in an addendum that the trio mysteriously “discovered” after the uproar erupted?

Prakash says, “This is what the people want!” What people, Praks? How many thousands appeared before the sittings the CRC held, or submitted memoranda to that effect? I’d be surprised in the CRC, in all its deliberations, interfaced with more than 1,000 citizens. Of that lot, maybe a handful mouthed something about “run-offs”, but because it offers a ray of hope for the PP in the next elections, the provision has become the centrepiece of Government’s constitutional and electoral reform.

The trio tout the measure as the epitome of democracy, as people no longer being saddled with “minority MPs”. Hey, we have always had minority MPs, in the sense that if votes cast for the winners in all constituencies are mea­sured as percentages of the respective numbers of electors, there will have been few, if any, who polled more than 50 per cent.

Worse, if “run-offs” are staged (heaven help us if ever that happens), what gua­rantees are there other than the winner winning more than 50 per cent of what­ever votes are cast, be it 28 per cent of the electorate that gave the PNM all 36 seats in the boycotted 1971 elections, or the average 54 to 60 per cent that voted in all other elections?

In almost every instance, the winners will enjoy the support of a minority of his or her constituents.

I have shown where and how this “run-off” provision they want to undemocratically impose on us is useless, how it has the potential to trigger mischief.

If the “dark brigade” char­ges ahead as they plan to, the imposition would be undemocratic because not all members of the PP will go along with this monstrosity, and if they do, it would be under duress.

Clearly, the way forward is for the PP to withdraw all constitutional changes and make them a 2015 election issue. Let 800,000 electors, not 26 MPs, decide if they want such provisions. That, Praks, is true democracy.

15 thoughts on “Playing with Fire”

  1. KAP knows the math. PNM always has 200,000 “sure” voters (PNM till ah dead). And they come out to vote with money in a jersey every public meeting they attended and rum till morning come with food and more money when there was roll call after the political meeting. That used to be our treasury tax dollars. Yet UNC always said they could thief plenty more than that. God allows us to become accountants, lawyers, doctors, judges. leaders etc. for the greater good of man not for self as the UNC real manifesto spells out. Anyway those 200, 000 voters are spread over small areas unlike the UNC areas so this new legislation will put UNC in power for perhaps 30×2= 60 plus years. But God always have the final say. PNM relies on low voter turn out but when our tax dollars are spread by the cabal on election day the money loving UNC will come out in their numbers to vote. What a mess we the mixed breed who never had any say in our beloved country are now facing. Nevertheless I believe mighty UNC Goliath will take a mighty fall in T&T. God’s way always prevails….we must pray now.

  2. To the PNM whose members apparently never took the positives from their “slavery” years: never learned the lessons of life before freedom now live to have their past coming back to haunt them. Their children never learnt what their elders mastered. It is so regretful for Africans are brilliant in numbers worldwide. The trini ones are generally a mere small minded bunch of cowards with more braun than brain. I love my country so much it is disgusting what these UNC bastards are doing to my country but I am certain they will pay dearly. Of course the UNCs will suffer along with their children for what they are doing to over blessed nation. The recalcitrant minority will have their day in hell.

    1. Jerry, my soul feel the vent of the frustration that you so rightly expressed, even if KAP (I like that ‘title’) were to go along with their proposals, there is NO certainty that the electorate will fall for that. In the unlikely scenario that they should be victorious, the people that they are trying to catapult over the heads of all others may NEVER enjoy the pleasures of materialism that they are pushing for, because there is no way in hell that 34 – 55% of your population will allow 45% to rule and have things their away without the recriminations of total disaster. This has nothing to do with whether you are Indian, African, Dougla, Chineese, Syrian, French Creole or what, the impending legislation is a poison pill that will split this fun-loving nation into the worst human tragedy this country has seen in the Caribbean. It is VOID of fairness, it is WORSE (not better) than what we now have. The ones proposing were voted in by a large majority, so why aren’t they popular now? It is because their proposal has nothing to do with numbers, numbers is only a mechanism, governance is the key. So if, with a large majority as the present PP has in Parliament, governance is a problem, what makes them think that perpetual electioneering will make them a better governing force? These people are delusional and power hungry and EVERY single citizen should RISE, yes RISE against such bastardly proposals. People should come out in their numb era and go to Parliament and let KAP and their cohorts know that this is undemocratic. This is foolish politics, they know know that re-call and 2-terms might be popular, so they added the poison pill that would give them the papa doc type of power they always clamored for. THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN!

  3. Run-off system more democratic
    The run-off system calls for a second election if no candidate receives at least 50 per cent of the vote. Most pointedly, commentators hypothesise that the run-off system will do little to loosen the stranglehold of our democracy by the two dominant parties – which is perhaps of particular significance given our population composed of two major ethnic groups in near-equal proportions. Scrutiny of the numbers and empirical data elsewhere in the world argue against this view.

    After forward step, PM could stumble and fall
    Some good proportion of the discordant noises surrounding the government’s constitutional proposals was always to be expected. Given the dodgy character of the People’s Partnership administration’s track record, not even its most well-meaning initiatives will escape reflex suspicion and unsparing scrutiny.

    Prakash comfortable with runoff system
    Congress of the People (COP) political leader and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar says he is comfortable with the runoff system being proposed in the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014, due for debate in Parliament tomorrow.

    Supporters, protesters face-off outside PM’s residence
    Ten government supporters, two of them dressed in the colours of the United National Congress (UNC) failed to stop a 45- minute placard protest demonstration by members of “Fixin T & T” outside the Philippine residence of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday. Chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation Premchand Sookoo led the noisy group of supporters who began gathering near the Prime Minister’s residence from as early as 3.50 pm yesterday.

    Power to the people PP
    Respect perceived is respect achieved. You have to give respect to get respect and in my respectful view, having presented us with as drastic an alteration to the Constitution as a runoff election mere months before a general election and expecting us to distill it in one week, the Prime Minister is unworthy of our respect (or trust).

    Hodge disputes ‘addendum’ to Reform report
    Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) member Merle Hodge yesterday claimed the addendum to the Commission’s Reform report released by the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday was an internal document tagged “Private and confidential: Not for circulation,” and addressed exclusively to the Prime Minister in mid-July 2014.

  4. What will happen if the election is almost a neck and neck dead heath; 35-34-31% result for which ever party)? A “run-off” would entail that any of the three parties could end up the Winner. What could be democratic and people’s power to exclude the 31%? This is a recipe for war, for racist rule and for introducing into the Caribbean a system of politics and government that excists in war torn non democratic parts of the World. As such, people must ask themselves the question whether this idea promulgated by Kamla, Prakash and Anand, was given as advice from foreign Powers and agencies in Hindu India. How can Anand be the champion propagandist of this draconian racist Power plot? One who has given the nation state of emergency, section 34, has emailgate over his head, two range rovers and Prison gate. And his position is as stated by himself that “they cant’t do me nothing.” This is the man talking abut people’s Power. One no a single living soul in T&T cast one vote for! The secret clause, the “Addendum” is another section 34 again coming to light in the month of August! Trinidad is heading like a runaway train into an ocean of blood because if Kamla and Ramlogan fail, “Blood will Run in the streets.” They are planning state of emergency again. The one in 2011 was just a preliminary experiment, a preamble to this. They have well prepared for this. Importing body bags, planning the importation of armoured cars and placing their people in strategic positions. But what is strange is how can a few racist politicians impose such draconian measures to disrupt Peace and and stability in a nation where the police and military is still overwhelmingly of African descent? This is the irony, because elsewhere in the World from where these racist government is importing its draconian ideas, the military consisting of a different ethnic Group would move swiftly to remove the irresponsible civilian regime. The PP is playing with severe fire. Because if this racist hindu cabal attempts to impose a state of emergency again, there will be mutiny in the ranks. Trinidad Kamla and Prakash and Ramlogan and the whole PP is taking you to be headline World news just like the Ukaine, Afghanistan, Syria and other areas of turmoil. All complement Kamla Persad Bissessar, who people so loved in 2010 being so wisely fooled. Kamla and her cabal gang are engaging in a treacherous coup in parliament, worst than 1970 and 1990. More blood lives would be lost than in both events, just as Kamla said “blood will run in the streets.” This is an overthrow of the Constitution. Just as Ramlogan stated that this “Reform” is a REVOLUTION! This is the description given by Ramlogan. It is done by the secret “ADDENDUM.” They are a gang of bandits and parliamentary Insurrectionists. It is a Palace Coup disguised as People’s Power. But which people? In their eyes as we know for Kamla and her cabal, there is people and people. It is amazing that all kinds of people were duped to vote for Kamla and her racist cabal. Who knew they were voting for Devant, Anand, Sat and all these racists? Who will be the peole coming to Power in the new disensation?

  5. I have always maintained that this government is all about RELIGION! and in particular the Hindu religion. Trinidad, from its early days of occupation by the Spanish, French and the British most of the laws, habits, culture, practices and beliefs were emanated from Christian concepts and operative values. The values of christianity espoused submissions to the will of God and not to do so is an abomination, this and other aspects of servitude forms the basis of christian behavior and belief system, which except for the Panday regime adhered to the christian habits and behavior because not to do so would entail the wrath of God. Yes, Christianity espouse that you must have a heart and what you do have to have the blessings of the Almighty, hence the saying “don’t take god out of thoughts…..”.
    The christian beliefs mean you must care for all… Here comes the present regime, made up of mostly pagan believers who do not share the concepts of christianity nor its self-evaluating practice of regulating your behavior to the will of god, that want everything for themselves and don’t really give a hoot of what it costs, or what anyone else thinks or believes, even abrogating the constitutional provisions which don’t care about race, religion, or creed, but here they are wanting to fix it so they they would be the perpetual beneficiaries (by law) of the laws governing elections. There are those who would want to question this issue by saying that religion is not the issue but that can be easily dispelled by (1) looking at the personnel make up of every political appointment by KAP regime. Even the notorious Lifesport program which was “for the little black boys’, its board was staffed by a 70% non-christian-name majority
    and not representing the purpose of its existence. (2) Our now famous ILP chairman, when he was the HNIC in the UNC made statements to rebuff any anti-Kamla sentiments by saying that she is “Mother Lakshmi” and we all hated her because she is “an woman”. This statement has very strong religious implications by saying she is hindu and there is dis-respect because she is woman and hindu. (3) Whilst the KAP regime enjoys muslim support amongst the Indian ethnic population, there is little to show for the UNCs commitment to that community by way of its staffing and procurement procedures. But they do enjoy the support of most ethnic muslims. (4) There is a concerted move towards moving everything cultural and spiritual in the hands of Sat Maharaj. It has been calibrated in arts, language and culture with the caveat that christians must also follow suit in that direction too. So much so is this noticeable that one can foretell what the PM will do if they take their cue from what Sat says and does. (5) The development of infrastructure has taken qualified significance in hindu populated areas to show what this regime has done for them. No more has it been so telling as the preferential treatment Chutney has been getting since Kamla became PM. If I am not mistaken I think the head of the NCC carries a hindu surname. Hindu Arts and culture has been receiving massive funding in this respect.
    We have had an abundance of notice leading to this new request to have this now fifty percent majority vote system to ensure rule by the ‘majority’ which means hindu rule. Rishmi, Ish and Steve,
    Section 34, emailgate, SOE, prison gate, lending of listening ears to Sat, the disbanding of SAUTT, etc, etc. There were many indicators that these people who got into power by the will of the majority wants to stay in power by claiming the support of the majority of INDIAN votes. It is that simple, and what better way to do that by engraving it into the very constitution that we all should hold dearly to our hearts and minds. The cabal as we have now come to know and understand it consists of a majority hindu zealots. The intent is not just just to command the support of the Indian vote but also to ensure that the Panday faction which command a great following amongst the lower working class do not get hold of the executive leadership of the UNC. In so doing it will have the donor class in their pockets and the donor class will have them in their pockets as well. This way the Brahmins will always win out. And just as the caste system the other castes and dalits just have to go along with what they want and desire. We cannot afford to turn our backs on this assault on the constitution and those with the know-how must stand up against such ruthless and cowardice approach to amend the will of the people without their consent.

    Snnnnzzzzzz,& do we really care?
    No Kamla, so wake us up ,when you eradicate that anachronistic Privy Council , and stat to respect our CCJ.
    Talk to us when you plan to curb corruption, as well as runaway cronyism ,and , or charge one White color bandit in our country.
    Just when would ‘ de tassa whining/ Limbo dances, and typical self serving ,media posturing’ end, from Auntie Kamla ,do nada of substance, PP regime end?
    Enough already!

  7. I would remain remiss if I do not submit the under mentioned which is self-explanatory.

    I have been paying attention to the ongoing debate on the constitutional amendment and cannot understand the fuss about the run-off vote.
    From what I have read and heard, the amendment says that in any constituency in a general election if no one gets more than 50 per cent of the vote then there would be a second vote 15 days later in which voters would get a chance to choose between the two candidates with the highest and the second highest vote.
    People are saying this is undemocratic and dictatorial but I don’t see how that is so.
    All it says is that the person who will become the MP must have more than half of the votes cast. In other words, it gives a voice to the majority, which is what is needed in a democracy.
    Suppose we have a vote in Constituency X and Candidate A gets 30 per cent; Candidate B gets 25 per cent and the rest of the 45 per cent goes to candidates C, D, and E. It means that Candidate A gets 30 per cent of the votes and becomes the MP although 70 per cent of the people voted against him/her. How is that fair or democratic?
    Under the run-off system, that candidate with 30 per cent and Candidate B with 25 per cent would be on a second ballot and people get a chance to choose between them and one will get the majority and become the MP. That is much fairer.
    People are saying it means people would have to choose somebody who is not from their party and that small parties won’t get a chance.
    Well everybody who goes up for an election wants to win so if you placed second or third you didn’t win in any case so what does it matter if you drop off the ballot. And voting is not compulsory so if you don’t like the two people on the run-off ballot you don’t have to vote for them. But in the end the best from among the five who ran will be the MP.

    1. First of all, we do not know the authenticity of the documents that Kamla claims is the product of the PNM. Assuming that that is true, was the document ever put up for public debate, parliamentary consideration, motion to be debated in parliament or put forward in a bill to be considered for debate? Judging from the suggestion that it was considered by the PNM, it should not be taken as gospel because the PNM never moved such a motion. We all have thoughts and take actions, the only thoughts and actions that should be considered should be the ones expressed by the producer, not heresy.

    2. Loyal Trini have said it so simply & explicitly…Kudos for a very plain & simple explanation,//why are these pnm posters trying to obfuscate by hiding their fear that they’d never get back with a 28% minority government?

  8. To think that I have always warned my fellow Trinis of the damage that can occur, if the Guyanarization of T&T , was allowed to take place.

    The fact is that here is a bigger irony-radical Marxist Chedi Jagan, his CIA trained Yankee wife Janet, and adopted Moscow educated Jagdeo -the epitome of evil-in their worst moments , never resorted to such desperate measures ,to amass power-or so ‘me think,’ as I stand corrected.
    Again Royal Trini, no one cares, outside of the political bandits, and clueless , delusional , neo tribal minions ,like yourself , who are trying so desperately ,to distract us with escapist diatribes, in efforts to destroy our hard won democratic ideals , that were laid down by ‘Our Founding Fathers,’ after wrestling power away from ‘you alzzs ‘White ,conniving , yet much adored , imperial Massas.
    What do you know Royal Trini, but the party that Raffiqe Shah, and George Weeks built, that was eventually stolen away , by Papa Baz, de Father of your Nation , or more appropriately-
    Divider in Chief- is now trying ,in de words of my late, extremely Wise , Tobago Granny, to give us ah 6, for a 9.
    Sorry Trini Royal, but tell Auntie K, and that comedian, un-electable , former Guardian columnist, turned overpriced, Range rover loving AG, dat we de people ain’t buying the gramazone laced mauby dey selling.

    The people as a collective , will decide who they want to lead them, not back room dealing, social miscreants , pretending to be caring patriots.
    it’s always a beautiful day, when one can expose the follies oh dem ,country haters.
    Long live the Republic of T&T,& may self serving Barbarians never be allowed to overrun the Trini Perley Gates, hmmmm?
    I luv dis land, y tu?

  9. Old people don’t like change, I sense that in this article. The PNM placed “run-off” in their Constitution and nobody died. Yet it seems that the PNM is more afraid of “run-off” than anybody else. India cannot have a “run-off” system because of the high percentage of the electorate.

    Democracy is about majority rule and a nation must strive to strengthen its democracy by building majority consensus. With parties being formed everyday citizens will have the opportunity to decide on the person they want to lead via the “run off” system. This system has been adopted by 92 nations and continues to allow parties to put their best candidate forward instead of a “crapaud”.

    The presumption that the government have the upper hand in these elections is wrong. The PNM encourage their voters to support Warner in CW elections. Strategically they knew they could not win so the next best thing was to support Warner. They were already doing “run off”. Now Constitutionally they will be able to so freely, why the fuss…..

  10. There have been numerous articles and objections to this “run off” legislationfrom PNM press cohorts with comments ranging from total indignation to predictions of total anarchy.
    Has any journalist or political commentator done an analysis of the results of the last two or three elections based on the new proposed rules to see if the results would change?
    The PNM is fully aware that they can form government when third parties split the votes in the marginal constituencies. This has been a pattern over the years.Do these “minority” winners in the marginal ridings truly represent the democratic majority? They do not! But the PNM press cohorts are screaming loudly about democracy. Their primary fear and concern is that this new system would send their Party into oblivion. This is not necessarily true. The swing voters have a mind of their own and in 2015, I doubt that they are going to support the PP.

  11. As someone familiar with recall legislation in another jurisdiction I have seen first hand that it has numerous disadvantages. It is expensive and time consuming and it can only be workable in societies which are free of corruption.
    First there is a campaign to find enough signatures, a long drawn out process to authenticate every signature and a decision to determine if the recall is allowable. Nothing stops the “recalled” MP from being nominated by the Party to run again.In fact, in the jurisdiction of which I speak, this is exactly what happened and that “recalled” candidate won again.

  12. Proportional Representation is off the table as it’d never be supported by the least the next best for all citizens is a Run-Off system to ensure a democratic majority Candidate!

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