THA Chief Secretary welcomes constitutional reform committee

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine –

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine believes constitutional reform is long overdue.

He was responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement on Thursday of a seven-member advisory committee to steer the process.

The committee, headed by former Speaker Barendra Sinanan, includes one Tobagonian – retired THA chief administrator Raye Sandy.

During a news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, Whitehall, Rowley said the committee is expected to formulate terms of reference for a national consultation on constitutional reform.

He felt it was time to review and modify the Constitution, as people in several quarters have called for it.

Speaking to reporters on Friday after a sod-turning ceremony for the new Scarborough Secondary School at Bacolet Park, Augustine said he had not heard Rowley’s statement but believes constitutional reform should have taken place a long time ago.

“I did not quite get the announcement, because I worked until sometime after 1 am (on Friday). So I was just in and out. I did not get a chance to look at it.

“But we have been talking constitutional reform as a country for a very, very, very long time.”

He recalled former prime minister the late Basdeo Panday had campaigned on constitutional reform for his whole political career.

“He died and we have not been able to have any real constitutional reform.” Augustine said the country continues to function, in some instances, “with very old laws, antiquated concepts. And so yes, constitutional reform, I think, is required at this time.

“I will have to look at it and see if at all there is requirement for Tobago’s involvement and what will be the scope of work for this seven-man committee.

Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus, IDA political leader –

“But constitutional reform, I think, should be welcomed by the entire country, because it has been carded, it has been campaigned on, it has been promised for many, many years and if we could get to the place of constitutional reform now, I think that will be a great thing.”

Tobago’s Innovative Democratic Alliance (IDA), meanwhile, has applauded the government’s decision to establish a committee to review and upgrade the country’s Constitution.

In a release on Friday, the party’s public relations unit said, “The appointment of a committee, tasked with developing the terms of reference and a working paper for a national consultation in June, represents a significant stride towards fostering a more democratic governance system.”

The IDA believes the committee comprises individuals of diverse and extensive expertise.

The party said, however, that while it acknowledges the government’s commitment to assembling a team that brings together legal expertise, parliamentary experience, administrative knowledge, financial acumen and representation from Tobago, it was concerned about the potential lack of representation from the Opposition.

“The IDA emphasises the importance of considering political balance within the committee to ensure a fair and inclusive process given the significance of this proposed move.”

IDA political leader Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus, it said, has reiterated the need to have a diversity of skills in the committee to reflect the comprehensive approach to addressing the multifaceted aspects of constitutional reform.

It believes constitutional reform is “an essential process to reset the clock after decades of a governance arrangement that has not fully reflected the democratic aspirations of the people.”

The IDA said the government’s decision to initiate a national consultation aligns with the IDA’s advocacy for a more inclusive and participatory democracy.

“The IDA welcomes the government’s commitment to constitutional reform and urges all citizens to engage fully in this process, voicing their desires and aspirations for the present and future generations.”

Urging citizens to actively engage in the consultation, the party said it should be viewed as a unique opportunity to shape the future of TT’s constitutional framework.

The IDA said it was important for a Constitution to acknowledge the unique characteristics of both islands and encourage harmonious inter-island relationships.

“The appointments of former House Speakers, a former Clerk of the Parliament and former administrative heads are acknowledged by the IDA as individuals who comprehend the gravity of the task before them.”