OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called on the Prime Minister to end the “charade” in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) or he will be “tied up in court for a long time.”
She said the passing of last Friday’s Tobago House of Assembly (Amendment) Bill by a simple majority was unconstitutional and would be struck down in a court of law.
She said it is unconstitutional on several levels, including passage by a simple majority and the erosion of the assemblymen's rights to salary and other properties
Rowley said there would be fresh elections in a 15-seat THA to break the deadlock,
During the United National Congress (UNC) Monday night virtual report, “If you want a tie-breaker, you can have it tomorrow morning and end all this charade now, "Persad-Bissessar said. “End new polls. End this going back to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).
"Rowley doesn’t want a tie-breaker, he wants to gerrymander boundaries and to plant himself down in Tobago forever. He wants a new election to do that.
“Let the people of Tobago get the government they voted for in terms of the THA. Let them govern their own affairs.”
She advised government to use one of two options: either call another meeting for the clerk to come back in and, following the standing order, to elect a presiding officer.
When this is exhausted to go to standing order 92 which refers to the House of Representatives standing order 410 for drawing lots in the event of an equality of votes.
If unconvinced standing order 92 applies, she said, “Then all you have to do is bring a simple, fair amendment to the Parliament, to insert in Section 7 of the THA Act , 7(a), which says where there is an equality of vote for the election of a presiding officer, the clerk shall draw lots.
“End the song and dance. The will of the people must not be subverted by a dictatorial government,” she said.
She said the Prime Minister was misdirected when he told Parliament that as TT’s CEO he was duty-bound to act to ensure Tobago had an elected executive.
“Prime Minister, you cannot make the law. You cannot change the law.”
She said it was Parliament that had to change the laws and this act required a special majority, meaning Opposition support, not only that of PNM members.
“Even if you get the votes,: she pointed out, "any piece of law passed in the Parliament is reviewable by the court of law, who can strike it down.”
She said this had been done before, referring to the process for appointing a commissioner of police, and could be done with the THA Act.
Quoting Rowley as having said in Parliament on Friday, “Madam Speaker, what is required to be done is to amend the EBC Act to create instructions by law, so that the EBC could accept the Parliament wishes to give Tobago 15 seats," she said, “You cannot use the Parliament to instruct the EBC.
“The EBC is an independent institution – or should be an independent institution.”
She recalled in the aftermath of the 18-18 tie in the 2001 general electionand the increase the number of seats in Parliament from 36 to 41, “That was done by the EBC, taking into account all the factors they needed to take into account.
“But now you want to come to the Parliament telling us you could make the law, change the law, do what you want and tell the EBC take instructions.
“That piece of law is going to be struck down in the court. It is unconstitutional.
"You cannot truncate the term of office of the assemblymen. Those assemblymen are entitled to pay from the day they were elected."
She also accused Rowley of “telling a lie” when he said the THA has been dissolved. She said it had not been fully constituted, but not dissolved, because only the assembly can dissolve itself, and it cannot do that, because there has been no agreement on electing a presiding officer