Political analyst Dr Winford James says Government took the right approach to the Privy Council ruling which invalidated its extension of local government representatives.
However, political scientist and attorney at law Dr Indira Rampersad said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had no choice as the ruling was functus officio, meaning Government could not appeal. She said citizens would be happy with Local Government Elections within three months.
James said the move by Government agrees with the Privy Council judgement and local electoral process. He said the Opposition did not reject it as it would have done the same in that situation.
“The decision of the Privy Council cried out for that to happen and what Dr Rowley has done is to work in agreement with the decision of the Privy Council, so that was the right decision,” he said.
Rampersad said the ruling was a victory for democracy in T&T as there should be elections when they are constitutionally due.
Rowley reiterated the Government intended to gain time to roll out local government reforms, but Rampersad said that was not a valid reason. She said a counter to Rowley’s explanation would be:“Why was it not done before? Why wait until the time was up to do this?”
She said Government must recognise and respect election dates as failure to do so might create the perception that postponements are political gimmicks and strategies to delay the elections until they appear favourable.
“It is to the detriment of the Government in having delayed it because the perception is that Government thinks its political fortunes are declining, given the THA elections, which is a local government election in Tobago. That is equivalent to our local government elections and they got a good spanking in 14-1,” Rampersad explained>
“Government felt the time was not right to call an election in Trinidad. I think that would be foremost in the minds of citizens.”
Last Sunday, the Opposition accused Government of breaching citizens’ constitutional right to choose their representatives. However, Rowley said the Privy Council did not cite such a violation.
James agreed that it was not a constitutional breach but pointed out that it was a legal violation. He said no government could extend representatives’ terms for councillors and aldermen that way and based on T&T’s laws, delaying elections to roll out local government reforms is not a valid reason, and Government should have used its term to complete its plans before elections.
Rampersad said Government’s use of local government reforms as a successful campaign strategy will depend on whether they benefit people. On Rowley’s response to Persad-Bissessar’s question about the status of incumbent representatives, Rampersad wondered whether, with the move to validate local government activity from December 3 and May 18, what would be done about work done after. However, she said Persad-Bissessar’s question was moot.
“I understand the Opposition Leader and I think it is on this issue of the incumbents and their validity that she had mentioned in the Monday Night Forum that she would take him to court. I believe that is what she said, so it is a moot question on whether it is legal or it is not legal. When you have moot questions like this, you take it to court and let a judge interpret the law,” she said.
James said he also wants to know whether councillors and aldermen remain in office following the Privy Council ruling.