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I can’t support unfair system, says Drayton

Published: 
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Independent Senator Helen Drayton yesterday described Government’s runoff provision in the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 as a “Trojan horse” which was unwieldy, disruptive and expensive. She made the comment during her contribution at yesterday’s Senate debate. While admitting change was always unsettling, Drayton said there were dangers when principles and processes were compromised. “I think intuitively there is a perception that fundamental principles have been compromised.

“There was no consultation on the runoff. The public knew nothing about a significant change to the Constitution prior to August 4,” she said. Drayton said the process used to amend and change the electoral system in a fundamental way went against the grain of the people’s expressed reasons why they wanted change which was a fairer system.

“If in democracy was only about taking three minutes to dip your finger in ink to elect a representative then principle and process do not matter and there is no need for government to consult with and inform citizens of anything, better defined as tyranny by majority.” In criticising the process, Drayton said she found it hard to believe that was the way to treat the Constitution. “I don’t think it is the way to treat citizens,” she said.

Responding to Government’s claim that several other countries used the runoff system, she said: “These are unsettled democracies with a constant state of strife.” She said it led to divisiveness and conflict in some countries. “The runoff is not designed to deepen democracy but to deepen winner takes all,” she said.

Drayton, who at the beginning of her contribution praised Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for coming to the Senate, said while she supported the principle of a recall of non-performing MPs, she would not support it unless there were substantial amendments to the section. “I could not support a system that is unfair,” she added. She said MPs should be allowed some form of due process, if only to ensure political mischief was not at hand. 

She said there were issues with the recall and judging MPs’ performance because they had to perform multiple roles. She also questioned the need to rush the bill, while congratulating citizens for expressing their views. She added: “I want to commend the citizens of this country for their sterling involvement in the debate of this bill. I have never witnessed so much passion, so much fervor of the citizens in the affairs of the country. 

“I think that is encouraging because it is what democracy is about. I think this augers well for the country’s future. “Whether someone supports the bill or not, that is secondary to a person’s love for this country and I think that is a testimony that we can be a dynamic, progressive people.” 

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