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Category: Trinidad Politics 19 Nov 06

 

Last week, I began demonstrating the ease with which a dictator could emerge in Trinidad and Tobago under the guise of “Executive President” should the Sir Ellis Draft Constitution slip through. Sir Ellis has clearly stated that his is a draft open to comment and change.

 

My fear is that we are not paying it any attention. The Sir Ellis Draft is meant to be buzzing around bus stops and market places, in homes and offices, on the streets and in the cocktail circuits.

 

But the Draft remains ghostlike, mostly invisible; circling us like an ill omen as we spin around a people in fear of crime, fear of devaluation, inflation, overspending, controlled by the underworld.

 

From this distracting haze of fear, a dictator could emerge. Here’s how.

 

Once a political leader wins control of the Tobago House of Assembly, and regional corporations, and wins the general election with a 70 per cent majority he can do the following.

 

The Electoral College (the House of Representatives, where his party holds a majority) elects D (dictator) as Executive President and another party member as Vice President.

 

The Draft Constitution states that when the Executive President is elected from the House his seat becomes vacant so a by-election needs to be held immediately. D’s party wins the seat and retains the size of its majority in the House of Representatives.

 

This new Executive President combines the power of the existing posts of President with that of a Prime Minister. He is:

 

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•     Head of State: (in the 1976 Constitution this role was held by the president)

 

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•     Head of the Executive (in the 1976 Constitution the power as Head of the Executive was vested in the President, but power was given to Cabinet, which shared collective responsibility for decisions)

 

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•     D acts in his own “deliberate judgment” on executive decisions and is not bound to consult anyone, since Cabinet is only to “aid and advise” the Executive President.

 

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•     D is the Head of the Armed Forces and can issue instructions to them. If they disobey they can be court marshalled. (In the 1976 Constitution this role was held by the President)

 

•     Control the free speech in the following areas:

 

The media is muzzled. All broadcasting or published information is licensed and regulated;

 

Discussions on territorial integrity (eg no more talk of Tobago’s independence);

 

Disclosure of information received in confidence (no leaks of controversial documents, no whistle blowing on wrongdoing);

 

Morals (So wide that it can define anything);

 

The reputation of others (eg can not say anything imputing inefficiency or wrong doing by the President)

 

The Executive President now has almost absolute power:

 

Many of he powers of the President have carried over from that of the 1976 constitution, however, these powers were never meant to be given to a partisan politician.

 

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He appoints the members of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, the Public Services Commission, the Police Services Commission and all other Commissions.

 

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     In cases where he is required by law to act after consultation or advice and he does not do this, he cannot be legally challenged.

 

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     He can grant to any person a pardon in respect of any offence that he may have committed. (Seems like a recipe for corruption and abuse of power)

 

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     He appoints the Chief Justice and all other judges.

 

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     He appoints the Auditor General who is the person who certifies that the Government’s accounts are in order.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, our Executive Dictator.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur