Sinanan: Constitutional reform dependent on young people

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

From left, National Advisory Committee on Constitutional Reform (NACCR) chairman Barendra Sinanan SC, attorney Kiel Taklalsingh, president of Trinidad Youth Council Shane John and NACCR member Dr Terrence Farrell at the constitutional reform youth forum in San Fernando on May 4. – Photo by Yvonne Webb

CHAIRMAN of the National Advisory Committee on Constitutional Reform (NACCR) Barendra Sinanan, SC, said if there is to be constitutional changes, young people must let their voices be heard and demand that change.

At the start of the first of three consultations for youths, at San Fernando City Auditorium on May 4, Sinanan reminded the audience of the late Dr Eric Williams’s narrative about the future of the nation lying in the school bags of young people.

“I am telling young people today, the future of the country lies in their hands. They need to come out and say what affects them, how they would like the country to be governed in the future.”

At the other nine public consultations, which have taken place so far, Sinanan admitted that there was a poor showing on some days and that it failed to attract too many young people.

He said this is the reason why, in conjunction with the National Youth Council, they have scheduled three sessions dedicated to young people.

Two more youth sessions will be held, one in Port of Spain and the other in Tobago and he encouraged young people to come out and participate.

Shane John, president of the Trinidad Youth Council, was happy to be engaged by the committee, and was hopeful the impact of young people who have contributed to the framework of development and impacted governmental policies will become a focal point of the reform.

Sinanan said, “It is important that we hear the voice of the youths. The youths would really be the citizens of tomorrow and would in fact be benefitting from the exercise that we are undertaking at the moment.”

Reminded that this is the fifth such consultation spanning different administration over the years, with not much reform evident to date, Siananan was not too keen to admit it was an exercise in futility, though.

“The Constitution affects every single one of us. This is the fifth occasion we are doing this exercise and each government from Eric Williams to NAR (National Alliance for Reconstruction).”

He said, “Mr (Basdeo) Panday’s government, passed some good laws such as the Freedom of Information Act, the Integrity Commission Act.”

“All governments recognised the Constitution has to be changed. The bottom line really is, if people demand the change it is going to happen.”

He also proffered, “It is the young people who must energise the powers that be and demand change.

“The Constitution does need changing and the voice of the young people will be the catalyst of that change.”

Whether or not this government has the political will to effect changes, Sinanan said that is not in his remit, but he is hopeful some changes can be made before the next general election which is carded for 2025.

One of the recurring themes of the consultations, he said, has been the demand for accountability, people taking responsibility for what they are supposed to do and not doing it.

Referendum, the right to recall, and term limits for politicians have also been major themes. To date the committee, which includes economist Dr Terrence Farrell, has received over 1,000 written submissions and 4,000-plus responses to their questionnaire.

Sinanan said they are collating the information that would form part of the working document within their terms of reference, to be submitted to government.