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'No Bail' Bill passed on unanimous vote

The Bail Amendment (Number 2) Bill 2005 was unanimously passed with amendments in the House of Representatives at 4.16 pm yesterday, after Opposition and Government members returned from committee stage where they went through the Bill clause by clause.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning, speaking after Member of Parliament for Pointe-a-Pierre Gillian Lucky, described the Government and Opposition's cooperation as historic and contributing to the further evolution of TT's Parliamentary democracy.

As he rose to make his contribution, Panday could not resist a quip, "We not opening up any debate here."

Manning offered Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday, the MP for Couva North, a "letter of comfort" that discussions would continue on constitutional reform. Panday had raised the matter during his contribution.

Manning said the Government agreed as part of deliberations with the Opposition that constitutional reform would be discussed. "We would be the first to say and we have been saying all over TT that the Constitution under which we now operate served us very well."

Manning said the 1976 Constitution has served the country very well until now, but "time marches on" and society had become far more sophisticated.

"Prescriptions which may have been applicable and relevant 29 years ago 1976 may not be as relevant in the context of change in the national and domestic circumstances."

Manning said the Government acknowledged the need for reform and believed that any system of equity in Government must give local government bodies a greater role.

"Whether we are able to convince our colleagues on the opposite side is a different matter."

Manning said the Government had prioritised certain issues of a "constitutional nature" which could form the basis of discussion with the Opposition.

He also responded to critics of the dialogue on the crime bills who said Panday allowed himself to be "duped" by the Government.

"I would just like to say to him there are some people you listen to, and some people you ignore."

Manning said the Government agreed with the point made by Lucky that kidnapping, in which grievous bodily harm was done to the victim, should be included among the offences in the bill, but it was not part of the discussion between Government and Opposition. He said the bill was not "ideal" because it came out of discussion and compromise.

Manning said if over time the bill was not having the desired effect or improvements could be made with amendments, then members could return to Parliament with the same "maturity" they demonstrated yesterday. "When we begin to act in that way then the people of TT are going to have greater respect for the political directorate."

"I agree with that," said MP for St Augustine and UNC Political Leader, Winston Dookeran.

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