Saturday, December 07, 2002

Bukka Rennie, in his column in today's Guardian (no link, because the Guardian still has no online archive), responds to Anand Ramlogan's previous suggestion of a "right of recall". Rennie points out that this idea has a long history in T&T; it was actually introduced in 1965, by the Workers & Farmers Party (long since defunct), of which C.L.R. James was a leading member. He describes hearing James speak on the subject:

"My friends and I, then members of the Mount Hope PNM Youth Group, had gone to this WFP public meeting ... out of curiosity and probably with the intention to heckle. And there at the head table was this frail old man, his hair totally grey and hands that shook, shook so badly that he had to hold a glass of water with both hands in order to drink.... the would-be hecklers sensed an open season until the old man began to talk.

"And even though the manifesto dealt with the right to recall in about six lines, basically saying that they would amend the Constitution and the electoral law to allow this right and that crossing the floor should lead to automatic 'forfeiture' of the said seat, that particular night C.L.R. alluded to much much more....

"One began to sense that there was something very challenging and morally correct about people being able to recall representatives at any moment and effecting by-elections. One sensed certain possibilities arising from this 'right to recall'.

"Firstly, a deeper questioning of the quality of representation, the need to ensure that 'principle' be given priority over 'personality', which in essence would militate against such negatives as the act of crossing the floor without sanction from the electorate.

"Secondly, the mere beginning of a transfer of authority and power from the leaders and representatives back to the people themselves in their communities where it really matters.

"And thirdly, the eventual teasing towards an overall opening up of the political structures and system in order to empower all."

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