(Trinidad Express) The decision by the Congress of the People (COP) to take an independent position with respect to Government’s policies could affect the passage of legislation which requires a special majority, Government Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said yesterday.
Housing and Environment Minister Moonilal, the leader of Government Business in the Parliament, was speaking to the media following a stakeholders meeting to discuss labour relations initiatives for agencies and committees within the Ministry at the Trinidad Hilton, Port of Spain.
COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar on Sunday said his party would exercise its independent discretion with respect to Government policy and would only support legislation that was in the interest of the people of this country.
Ramadhar called for a referendum on Government’s decision to bring legislation to cut ties with the Privy Council with respect to criminal matters and make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) the final appellate court.
This call was immediately rejected by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Ramadhar had also said the COP was standing its ground on its call for Marlene Coudray to be removed as San Fernando mayor and replaced with a COP member in keeping with an agreement made in 2010—that the COP will have responsibility for the San Fernando City Corporation.
Questioned on these issues yesterday, Moonilal said he was optimistic that they will be resolved and there will be full support for legislation as it relates to the CCJ.
“I’m seeing the emergence of a concern with specific policy so it’s really policy specific issues that we’re looking at and we have to deal with that before,” said Moonilal.
“Now we deal with it before in the context of Government and Opposition, if you recall before we go with a constitutional motion we speak to the Opposition PNM, it may well be before we go with legislation forward of that nature we speak not only to the Opposition PNM but to the different units in the Partnership to make sure they are all on board,” he added.
“When the PNM failed to support the Constitutional Bill on hanging, it meant it could not pass, if it is the COP choose not to support the Bill on the CCJ constitutional amendment it may well be that we will have to move forward knowing that it will be very difficult,” said Moonilal.
Moonilal said for the past two years, there was a “very good team” at the Parliament and several major pieces of legislation were passed with COP support.
He noted that last Friday five major pieces of legislation were passed which the COP supported.
“The Parliament has been operating in a very harmonious and cohesive manner, if it is that there is a new approach I will leave that for the political leaders of the five parties of the Government to decide on the approach but I would be very concerned to ensure that we have a smooth passage of legislation if and when we go forward with legislation,” said Moonilal.
Questioned on Ramadhar’s insistence that Coudray must go, Moonilal said “… I think with Ms Coudray I was hoping the matter would be finished with and we could move on and I think Mr Dookeran made an important statement as well in his wisdom by indicating that it is really time to move on and don’t allow this to derail u, notwithstanding the implications and some of the issues. I’m confident that will not be an issue in the coming days.”
Contacted yesterday, political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah said the party will make a statement on Ramadhar’s call for a referendum at the appropriate time.
National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) Government Senator Embau Moheni said NJAC has not yet discussed the issue and he preferred not to comment.
Ashworth Jack, political leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), said he will respond on the issue today.