Persad-Bissessar: Any attempts to remove three-fifths requirements will be met with strongest condemnation by Opposition

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 15:15

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says any attempts by the Attorney General Faris Al Rawi and the Government to remove the requirement for a three-fifths majority of Parliament will be met by the strongest Opposition condemnation.

Persad-Bissessar issued a statement in response to comments made by the AG on Tuesday.

The following is Persad-Bissessar's statement:

"The recent statements of the Attorney General that the Government would not be hampered by the Opposition's unwillingness to support certain pieces of legislation and he intends to eliminate the need for three-fifths majority support are deeply disturbing and troubling as they are a direct attack upon our democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law.

These are the fundamental principles that bind us together as one people and one nation and the statements of the Attorney General represent a clear signal by the Rowley administration that they are prepared to sacrifice our democracy at the costs of their selfish and self centered political desires. 

Forty years ago, in delivering the judgment of the Privy Council in the landmark and celebrated decision of Hinds v The Queen, Lord Diplock in speaking about the entrenchment provisions of the constitution stated: 

"The purpose served by this machinery for entrenchment is to ensure that those provisions which are regarded as important safeguards by the political Parties in Jamaica, minority and majority alike, who took part in the negotiations which led up to the Constitution should not be altered without mature consideration by the Parliament and the consent of a larger proportion of its members than the bare majority required for ordinary laws. So in deciding whether any provisions of a law passed by the Parliament of Jamaica as an ordinary law are inconsistent with the constitution of Jamaica neither the Courts of Jamaica nor their Lordships Board are concerned with the propriety or expediency of the law impugned. They are concerned solely with whether those provisions are, however reasonable and expedient, are of such a character that they conflict with an entrenched provision of the Constitution”. 

These hallowed words of Lord Diplock have been approved by the highest Courts of Trinidad and Tobago on many occasions.

Like Jamaica our Independence Constitution was evolutionary and was the result of hard fought negotiations at Marlborough House by our forefathers.

It is ironic that the grandfather of Attorney General Faris Al Rawi was one of those persons responsible for ensuring that these rights were constitutionally protected and, fifty-five years later his grandson as Attorney General is seeking to dismantle those protections.

Our Constitution framers fought to ensure that the citizens of the newly independent state of Trinidad and Tobago were guaranteed fundamental rights by the State and more importantly that those fundamental rights could not be interfered with by the State unless such interference was in accordance with the Constitution.

The entrenchment provisions in the Constitution which require a three-fifths majority were made part of the supreme law to protect those constitutional guarantees and to protect the citizens of the newly independent Trinidad and Tobago from the arbitrary and absolute exercise of power by an ill-intentioned government.

The question necessarily arises what will be the next target for this Rowley dictatorship, the Service Commissions and other entrenched provisions?

The statements of the Attorney General are a clear signal that this Rowley administration is prepared to transform our democracy into a dictatorship and lead us down a road that will only end in tyranny. These statements are a frontal attack upon the Constitution and amounts to an attack upon each and every citizen of our country.

It signals that the Rowley government is prepared to subvert the express provisions of the Constitution and infringe the fundamental rights of citizens without sanction.

The fact that these statements fall from the officer holder who is constitutionally recognized as the guardian of the public interest is even more worrying.

This is yet another example of the unfitness and unsuitability of Faris al Rawi to continue to hold the office of Attorney General.

The Attorney General is recognized as the legal advisor to the Cabinet and the government and if these statements represent the policy of this government it is clear that this government has no respect for the rule of law and our democracy.

The failure of the Rowley government to obtain Opposition support for legislation is an indictment upon those who are in charge of the government and the government’s legislative agenda. It is an indictment against Faris Al Rawi and Dr. Keith Rowley.

It is a continuation of their inability to properly govern our country according to law and, in this case, in accordance with the supreme law, the Constitution and now, when they cannot accept their failure they resort to governance by any means necessary.

All right thinking citizens must signal their condemnation of these statements of the Attorney General and this Rowley regime, which is intent on undoing all that we have achieved before and since our independence.

Our Constitution is not a plaything for this government to tinker with as they see fit. The fundamental rights of our citizens are not pawns for the government to throw away at their whim and fancy.

The Opposition hereby gives notice to Dr. Rowley and Faris al Rawi that if any attempt is made to bring any legislation which in any way infringes the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizens of this country and such legislation is not presented in the manner prescribed by the Constitution, it will be met with the strongest condemnation by the Opposition and will be subject to challenge inside and outside the Courts of this country."