Senator ‘ashamed’ after Privy Council judgment

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Varma Deyalsingh

INDEPENDENT Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh has said he felt a little ashamed to be a parliamentarian after the May 18 Privy Council judgment which said last December’s extension of the life of local government bodies by a year was unlawful.

Deyalsingh was speaking in the debate on a private motion on parliamentary autonomy in the Senate on Tuesday.

In its judgment, the Privy Council while said the extension of the life of local government bodies was unlawful, it was not a constitutional breach and did not deprive people of their right to vote.

Deyalsingh said after the judgment was delivered he felt a a bit ashamed to be a member of Parliament.

He also felt ashamed to be linked with legislation that was viewed by some people as denying people their right to vote.

He pointed out that the legislation to extend the life of local government bodies was passed through both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

By this logic, he believed government, opposition and independent parliamentarians were equally culpable for the criticisms of the legislation by the Privy Council.

“All of us are to blame. All of us allowed the law to go through.”

Deyalsingh recalled that Opposition Senator Wade Mark, who moved the motion, had been trying to get the Government to address the parliamentary autonomy over the last six years, seemingly with no success.

He wondered if the response or lack of response from Government was bordering on disrespect and discourtesy to Parliament.

Deyalsingh argued that entities such as the Law Reform Commission should fall directly under Parliament’s control and not under any state entity, when it came to sending laws to Parliament to be debated.

“We are the legislators, and we are getting blamed for passing bad laws.”

Deyalsingh wondered why some laws got more attention than others.

He also asked why debates on some private motions in Parliament are never seen through to completion.

He argued that Parliament needs to evolve continuously as Trinidad and Tobago undergoes changes over time.

“Democracy has to evolve with the times.”