consultation at the Hilton Trinidad on a draft constitution proposing an
“executive president,” sent me racing to interview Sir Ellis and Dr
Hamid Ghany with an adrenalin-thumping urgency I haven’t felt since the
attempted coup in 1990.
saw visions of a watered down Parliament and judiciary, led by an
unbelievably power-bloated man.
gave me nightmares of George Bush; worse, Col Peron.
the facts: The Prime Minister presents a draft constitution in Parliament
on August 18, 2006, which primarily proposes to combine the power and
authority of President and Prime Minister in one person: the Executive
presenting the salient points of the Sir Ellis draft, the Prime Minister
politely expressed his “appreciation” to the Principles of Fairness
Committee, “a group of civic-minded citizens” who produced a draft
sounded like an incidental vote of thanks for an unsolicited document, but
I could be wrong. So there are two constitutional drafts. The Prime
Minister was dealing with the Sir Ellis draft.
the self-congratulatory desk-thumping on extracting a draft constitution
from a luminary such as Sir Ellis, the Prime Minister pours plenty ice
water on the frothing cauldron, with assurances upon assurances that the
draft is just a draft, a “working paper, not government policy” urging
nationals to become “thoroughly acquainted” with its contents, so they
can “meaningfully contribute to the national dialogue on this
Prime Minister revealed that Cabinet has established a Round Table to
evaluate national comments on the Ellis Clarke draft.
members include himself as chairman, the AG, the Minister of Legal
Affairs, the Minister of Planning and Development, the Minister of Public
Administration and Information, Sir Ellis, Tajmool Hosein, QC, Dr Selwyn
Ryan, Dr John La Guerre, Dr John Spence and Assemblyman Anselm London.
Prime Minister did not name the members of the “civic-minded”
Principles of Fairness Committee.
are: Marjorie Thorpe, Archbishop Edward Gilbert, Ken Gordon, Bhoendradatt
Tewarie, Tajmool Hosein, Arthur Lok Jack, Dr Hamid Ghany, Patricia
Mohammed, Satnarine Maharaj and Noble Khan.
Prime Minister said his team would, after exhaustive consultation with the
nation, prepare a “new draft, which will be published as a Green Paper
of the draft government policy by December 31, 2006.”
vs Draft. Politicians vs Big Wigs. Public heavyweights vs ordinary people.
I can’t see any of these bigshot men (and two women) sitting around on
pavements, arms around citizens and in liming corners around the country
explaining to people what it means, asking them what they think, and
going to end in tears. A battle between the Ellis Clarke Draft vs the
Principles of Fairness Committee Draft.
I do gather from the Sir Ellis draft is that it has given rise to fears
that it could create a maximum leader, a dictator even.
not Sir Ellis’ intention at all. I know it. There is no man in Trinidad
and Tobago today whose intellect, career, public service and achievements
I admire more. Sir Ellis is loaded with honours, including the Trinity
Cross, three knighthoods, the Order of the Liberator and an honorary
Doctor of Laws.
was one of the main architects of our 1962 Independence and 1976
constitutions, served as the last Governor General, and the first
President of this country.
speaking with him last week, I have a duty to lay out clearly what he
intends by his draft, which I will do in next week’s column in a
continuing series on the twin drafts before us.