THE Senate will have its turn to debate the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Amendment Bill 2021 on March 2. This was disclosed to Newsday on Saturday by top government officials. The Government succeeded in passing the bill in the House of Representatives on Friday by a vote of 21 to 18.
The bill needs a simple majority for passage in both the House and Senate. The bill was laid in the House on January 12 in the name of Attorney General Faris al-Rawi but the Prime Minister opened the debate on Friday. Al-Rawi, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy and Youth Development Minister Fitzgerald Hinds spoke later in the debate for the Government. Newsday understands that either Dr Rowley or Al-Rawi could open debate on the bill in the Senate.
The objective of the bill is to amend the THA Act "to make provisions for circumstances where after an election no assembly is constituted and to increase the number of assemblymen who can be elected."
The legislation also provides for the holding of fresh THA elections if a new assembly is not installed 14 days after a THA election is held; a date for the holding of new elections; consequential amendments to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) Act, to provide for electoral districts for Tobago; and for a new report to be laid by the EBC where the assembly remains dissolved after a primary election and no assembly is constituted.
The debate on March 2, could also see senators on all three benches with Tobago roots contributing to the debate. They are Senate Vice-President Nigel De Freitas, Opposition Senator Jearlean John and Independent Senators Hazel Thompson-Ahye and Dr Maria Dillon-Remy
When the Senate next sits from 1.30 pm on March 23, it will debate a private motion filed by Opposition Senator Wade Mark for the Senate to immediately revert to the original speaking times for senators as listed in the Senate's Standing Orders.
In his motion, Mark recalled the Senate agreed on August 29, 2020 that the "time limit for speeches in Debates be limited to 30 minutes for the mover/Member wrapping-up and the first speaker on the Opposition and Independent Benches, and 20 minutes for all other speakers" as part of the "new normal" in line with covid19 protocols.