Tuesday, January 14, 2003

A senior member of the Opposition here in T&T demands "meaningful and comprehensive" constitution reform. Parliament is controlled by an "executive dictatorship", he says. Opposition MPs will not hesitate "to take the necessary and appropriate action to address those deficiencies." Clearly the UNC leadership has been reading Lloyd Best & the other recent commentators on the constitution reform issue.

Well, we know the devil can cite scripture for his purpose. What's triggered Wade Mark's constitution diatribe? The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has arranged a seminar on parliamentary procedure here in Port of Spain, &, after first agreeing to attend, the UNC MPs now announce that they're boycotting the event, on the grounds that, according to Mark, "the conduct of both Houses of Parliament have [sic] thus far been unfair and biased in favour of the PNM".

Those fellas down at Balisier House & Rienzi Complex can't really disappoint me any more — my expectations are too low now — but with this announcement the UNC comes close. T&T's constitutional arrangements are "unfair", in the sense that they deny meaningful representation to the people & provide almost no significant checks to executive power. But these are the same constitutional arrangements under which the UNC governed for six years, & the Panday administration took advantage of them then to no less an extent than the Manning administration has over the last year.

It would be a great breakthrough if one of the two major political parties in T&T seriously took up the issue of constitution reform; but it's clear from the context & the content of Mark's announcement yesterday that this latest UNC tactic is merely an effort to frustrate the legislative process, prompted by sheer ill-will against the PNM. Mark's vague mutterings about boycotting parliament are nothing but hollow badjohnism. Let's call this threat what it really is: callous, opportunistic betrayal of half the electorate's trust. If this is what all our debate over constitution reform is coming to, we've clearly been wasting our time.

Prove me wrong, someone. Fuad Khan, Gillian Lucky, Winston Dookeran: prove that the UNC has any real interest in genuine constitution reform, beyond the ambition to fall back into government at the earliest opportunity.

Head them off, Constitution Reform Forum.

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