BARATARIA/SAN JUAN MP Saddam Hosein hinted that the Opposition would go to court to challenge a Government motion to increase the number of seats in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) from 12 to 15 seats as proposed in a document laid in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the Draft Report of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) Order, 2021.
With the Opposition voting against the motion, the Government’s motion was eventually passed by 21 votes to 18.
The Government has proposed the increase to the number of seats so as to avert a repeat of the current deadlock in the THA, which resulted after the People’s National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) each captured six seats in the THA elections last January.
Hosein alleged that the three new seats were all created by using polling divisions taken from the six seats won the PNM in the last THA election.
He said an Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) report done in December 2021, before the January tie, had recommended no increase to the 12 seats.
Hosein accused the Government on intruding onto the remit of the EBC by proposing 15 seats as had been recommended by a parliamentary Joint Select Committee (JSC), when the EBC should have been the one to determine the number of seats, and then decide the boundaries. He accused the Government of thereby seeking to gain an unfair advantage.
“How can that be constitutional, fair, just?” Hosein asked.
Mulling aloud why the UNC should be interested in the business of the THA, Hosein said, “We are not the Opposition of Trinidad but the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago.”
He added, “Before our eyes we have seen the PNM erode the democracy of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Rejecting the EBC’s report, Hosein called for reform of the EBC. “There are many jurisdictions where the boundaries commission is separate from the elections commission so there is no room for any collusion or gerrymandering of any boundaries for any one political party to gain an unfair advantage.”
Hosein said, “The actions of the EBC in this particular case must be judicially reviewed.
“We reject this report. There is already an inbuilt tie-breaker in the law. Do not come with your simple majority in this Parliament to railroad the democratic process that was inbuilt in our Constitution ever since Independence.”