Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blind Welfare workers begin ‘stage one’ of protest action.

By Port-of-Spain
Alexander Bruzual

Story Created: Aug 31, 2014 at 11:17 PM ECT
Story Updated: Aug 31, 2014 at 11:17 PM ECT

ON Friday night, 20 workers at the Blind Welfare Association North Office, located at the corner of Duke and Edward streets in Port of Spain, locked themselves inside the building for the weekend as “stage one” of their plans to protest the fact that more than 50 workers have not been paid for the past ten working days.

This was revealed yesterday by president general of the All Trinidad General Workers’ Trade Union, Nirvan Maharaj, in a brief interview with the Express.

“We have a situation right now where the Government has not paid these men and women, who are mostly daily paid, for the past ten working days and counting,” said Maharaj.

“These are men and women who have families, who have bills, mortgages, medical payments, children to support. They are just like everyone else, and yet there seems to be no consideration for them at all.

“So about 20 persons decided that they had enough and they want to commence protest actions until the situation is resolved. Part of that plan was to lock themselves in the compound and sleep there. The union and myself went to the compound today (Sunday) to show solidarity with them and to give them food and drink, and to make sure they were all doing okay,” Maharaj added.

He said he was calling on the Government to resolve the issue as soon as possible for the sake of all involved.

“If the matter is not resolved by Tuesday afternoon, then the union will have no choice but to lead a march to the Prime Minister’s office demanding that she intervene and pay these men and women. We are hoping that it does not come to that, but we are preparing for any eventuality at this point,” Maharaj said.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Press Release : the constitutional amendment bill.

23rd August 2014

The President General of the All Trinidad General Workers’ Trade Union Nirvan Maharaj wishes to express his preliminary point of view regarding the contents of the constitutional amendment bill.
This point of view is not cast in stone, but may be altered or even changed depending on the arguments for and against, if convincing enough, expressed by the Independent Senators in the Senatorial Debate to be held on the 26th August, 2014.

Though questions may arise as to the process used to bring this Bill to Parliament, an initial analysis of the contents of this Bill together with research on the system proposed seem to indicate that there is no substantive provision in this Bill that makes it worst than the “First past the post system” or violates or denies a citizen his democratic rights under the Constitution to exercise his right to vote or to support a political party of his choice.

In the absence of any empirical evidence to show that this Bill undermines any of our constitutional rights to universal adult suffrage and/or any of the elements of the rights enshrined in Part 1 (4) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago then the opposition to the contents of this Bill seem to be based on mere speculation and assumption on what may or may not happen and wild and unsubstantiated allusions to the race bogey. I am yet to be convinced that this proposed system will lead to a disturbance of our electoral peace and tranquillity or increase substantially, voting along racial lines anymore than we have experienced in this nation since the nineteen sixties.

It must be noted that no Constitution should ever be unchangeable, since the historical dynamics of the past must mesh with current and contemporary scenarios to ensure that all citizens are afforded the opportunity to fair play, equality and justice before the institutions that govern the society. It must be that a Constitution is evolutionary as the society itself evolves. It cannot be that we are willing to accept that a minority vote can dictate to the will of the majority, but we are fearful of a system that will allow an individual entering the Lower House of Parliament to be elected by the majority of the votes cast. This is simply not logical.

In lieu of the Opposition ever supporting any form of Proportional Representation, in my view and until shown otherwise, this bill is a step in the right direction toward ensuring that at least in the realm of electoral politics, the view of the majority of those taking part, may hold sway over the specific interest of a minority. If the First Past the Post System is not working in the best of the Country, as is alleged by some and as evidenced by the attempt by the Patrick Manning regime to also introduce Constitutional change, and people are vehemently opposed to the Run Off System, then perhaps the time has come for Civil Society Organisations and other interest groups to demand that the PNM, UNC and other political interest groups implement some type of Proportional Representation to ensure that he who achieves the majority of votes win and that all interest are served. That may be a lot better than opposing for opposing sake and finding any avenue to say that your rights are being violated, to continue to do this, is disingenuous to the future of our nation.

I am of the view that any political party entering into elections should do so as an alternative to the incumbent and with the desire to win in order to do better. It is up to the individual political parties to capture the imagination of the public, become a major force and in so doing achieve the necessary votes to win an election whether through a first-past-the-post system or any other system. It is quite strange in my view and incomprehensible that a political party will go into election with a desire to lose. For example, if the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union were to form a political party to ensure the interest of the ex-Caroni workers and their families were being attended to and also to assist those who feel they have been unfairly done by, especially by the Partnership Government and the PNM. Then in the constituencies this Party should choose to contest, we will be going all out to be an alternative and to win, not lose, or be of nuisance value.

In any event, until such time as the views of the independent senators are expressed and I am convinced otherwise it is my view that most of the opposition levied against the content of this bill are simply opposing for opposing sake. The Jury is however out on the process used and whether a simple majority is all that was needed; this can only be tested in a Court of Law. However in lieu of Proportional Representation being achieved in the House perhaps this bill is a step in the right direction.

Yours sincerely,

Nirvan Maharaj
(Attorney at Law)
President General