Movement for Social Justice

Governance

  • Implement Political Party Funding and Campaign Finance Legislation

    The process of constitutional reform must also include the reforming of political parties, in particular the implementation of Political Party Funding and Campaign Finance Legislation. This reform has become absolutely necessary given that political financiers have caused our electoral process to be subverted, and therefore our democracy to become distorted. Our politicians are not driven by the demands of the populace, but rather have as their main objective in most cases, to respond to the calls of those who contribute to their party’s coffers – and so deforming the democracy. This legislation should identify an upper limit for party spending on political campaigns. Additionally, provisions should be made for a specific amount of public funds to be made available for political parties. In this way the need for private party financiers could be reduced, and ultimately eliminated.

  • Implement spending limits of political campaigns

    This legislation should identify an upper limit for party spending on political campaigns. Additionally, provisions should be made for a specific amount of public funds to be made available for political parties. In this way the need for private party financiers could be reduced, and ultimately eliminated. The distortions which have resulted from private party financing could therefore be eliminated. Private funding from external organisations or groups could be allowed, but within a specified limit, such as 5 per cent of the total amount of expenditure allowed for individual candidates.

    Parties must be required to identify these external bodies, including the names of their principals. In the case of donations from companies, a company donating more than TT$500,000 to any one party would not be able to bid for contracts from a Government of which the said party is a part for at least one year following this donation. Diaspora contributions should also be allowed from individuals as well as companies, within the same limit.

  • Public Funding for all political parities

    Additionally, provisions should be made for a specific amount of public funds to be made available for political parties. In this way the need for private party financiers could be reduced, and ultimately eliminated.

  • Restrict the amounts that can be donated by individual donors

    Private funding from external organisations or groups could be allowed, but within a specified limit, such as 5 per cent of the total amount of expenditure allowed for individual candidates. Parties must be required to identify these external bodies, including the names of their principals.ompanies, within the same limit.

  • Registration of Parties and Audited Accounts

    It is recognized that political parties receive a significant amount of financial contributions 'off the record'. This form of financing should be banned and all contributions must be in the books in order to promote greater transparency within our political parties and as a result in the governance process altogether. Also, in an effort to promote greater transparency and stronger democratic practices within political parties and across our national institutions, parties must be required to comply with certain requirements which would include: - being officially registered, this registration would require political parties to submit the names of ALL officers and the constitution and bye laws of the party; presenting annual audited financial statements; and holding regular elections, the results of which are to be reported. 

    In the United Kingdom the Political parties, elections and referendums Act, 2000 provides a framework for the regulation of party financing and can serve as a model for local campaign finance legislation. With respect to party financiers, this UK legislation specifies that political parties can only receive contributions from particular organizations and/or individuals which have been appropriately registered - these are referred to as "permissible donors". 

  • Ensure that the EBC operates in an independent and transparent manner.

    Ensuring that the body charged with overseeing the election process (at present, the Elections and Boundaries Commission) operates in an independent and transparent manner. This can be achieved by putting in place specific requirements for the composition of the Commission which would ensure balance and accountability. In the first instance, as is the case in Jamaica, the Commission could be comprised of an independent chair; a representative from each political party represented in the Parliament; and thirdly by a set number of professionals from relevant fields. Alternatively, Commission members can continue to be chosen as presently occurs, save for an additional component to include, an oversight committee comprising representatives of civil society. The Commission would be required not only to report to the Parliament but also to the oversight committee.

  • Ensure voters list are kept updated at all times.

    Ensuring that the voters list is kept updated at all times. Maintaining an accurate electoral list can be achieved by cross-referencing various data sources such as the registry of deaths and births, the licensing authority, the immigration division, as well as .billing data from utility companies. Updating the electoral list in a timely manner cannot be achieved by relying on a single source - National ID card information - as presently exists.

  • No political gerrymandering of Electoral Districts

    Ensuring that when necessary, adjustments to the electoral boundaries are carried out in a transparent manner. The process to change constituency boundaries must not be seen as giving any particular party an advantage over other parties and must be done by consensus.

  • Use a mixed system for electing the House of Representatives

    We propose that a mixed system should be put in place for the election of MPs to the Lower House. We further propose that it be weighted 60 per cent of MPs elected by ‘first-past-the-post’ and the remainder of seats in the Lower House (40 per cent) would then be distributed via PR, based on the total number of votes cast for each party. For instance, under the current system where there are 41 constituencies, this would represent 60 per cent of the Lower House. Therefore, in addition there would also be 27 seats (40 per cent) which would be occupied by MPs elected via the PR system, based on the total number of votes attained by the respective parties. A party would be eligible to be allocated seats via PR as long as it was able to secure at least 5 per cent of the total votes cast nationally.

  • PR elected MPs should be the primary soure for appointing Cabinet Ministers.

    The PR elected MPs who belong to the ruling party would be the primary source for appointing Cabinet Ministers. Those PR elected MPs who belong to the opposition or some other minority party would carry out the non-constituency duties of MPs such as serving on Parliamentary oversight committees. This would also have the added advantage of allowing the elected MPs to have more time to dedicate to constituency work, allowing for more effective representation.

  • Improve efficiency of elected MPs by ensuring that constituets concerns are addressed.

    Improving the efficiency of elected constituency MPs to ensure that constituents’ concerns are addressed. This can be achieved by having MPs work much more closely with local government bodies. Specifically, MPs should meet regularly with these bodies in order to be appraised of the concerns of the constituents. Additionally, MPs should serve as ex-officio members of local government bodies and attend council meetings at least once monthly. Furthermore, MPs should serve on a full-time basis.

  • A Senate of the People

    In the Senate, in addition to government and opposition senators we propose that there should also be a certain number of senators from bona fide civic organisations – once again promoting wider and more effective parliamentary representation. These organisations would include business chambers, trade unions, farmers’ organisations, religious, youth and women’s groups, amongst others. In our view the role of the Upper House is to provide checks and balances with respect to the work of the Lower House, where party interests dominate. These checks and balances would be achieved through the presence of civic organisations in the Upper House. Furthermore, this would allow for the voice, and therefore interests of the people to be directly heard in the Parliament through the representatives of these organisations. With representatives of civil society forming part of the Senate, the national interest could be more effectively voiced in the Parliament, as opposed to having only party positions and interests being put forward. This wider representation in the Parliament would see all major interests being represented and pursued. In this context, real politics will take place, as politics is the pursuance of interests. This would of course represent a new process and no longer would politics and representation be only a contest of power between political parties. Instead, both government and opposition would have to persuade interest groups on the basis of policy and interest groups would be correspondingly in a position to influence and change policy. In this way, the Parliament would be able to work more meaningfully towards finding solutions for the numerous challenges with which our country grapples.

  • Establish term limits and fixed dates for elections

    In addition to voters casting two votes (one for the Prime Minister and one for their MP), we further propose that there be fixed dates for elections and also a term limit of two, five year terms for the Prime Minister.

  • Establish right to recall MPs and the holding of referenda

    The right to recall MPs and the holding of referenda on national issues must be put in place. MPs would face a recall vote in circumstances where a petition requesting same has been circulated, having been signed by at least 20 per cent of the electors in the given constituency. Referenda are especially important as they allow the voice of the population to be heard on issues of fundamental national importance and facilitate broader participation in the governance process by citizens, given that at present our involvement is limited to voting once every five years in general elections and once every three years for local government representatives.

  • Place power in the hands of citizens

    Changing the relations of power so that greater power would reside with the wider population as opposed to being concentrated in the hands of those in government. Such a shift will involve greater participation of our people in the decision making process. No longer would our participation in the governance process be limited to voting once every five years in a general election and once every three years in a local government election.

  • Redress the balance of power

    Ensure the relations of power are more balanced and that the relevant checks on that power are in place, so that all decisions of the government are fair, equitable and non-discriminatory.

  • Transparency and Accountability

    Establish and enforce systems to ensure that the decision making process is transparent and information made available to all citizens; and elected officials, as well as those employed in state agencies are held accountable for their decisions. Furthermore, we recognize that having a well regulated public procurement process is key to ensuring that transparency and accountability prevail in governance.

  • Promote Morality in Public Affairs

    Ensure that those who are charged with the responsibility of governing our country must conduct public affairs in the best interest of the national community and not for private gain or self-interest and/or the benefit of friends and relatives.

  • Each citizen has a critical role

    Recognize that all citizens - elected officials, persons who are employed in state institutions, as well as the wider population - have an indispensable role in the process of governance. As such, each of us must accept and fulfil our responsibility and not shirk or ‘pass the buck’ to someone else.

  • Strong local government is absolutely critical to facilitating wider participation in government

    The role of citizens in the governance process is crucial. While every individual cannot be in government every individual must be facilitated to participate in the governance process. We can rebuild that sense of community by facilitating good governance structures at the level of Local Government. The capacity of our citizens must be recognized and opportunities for the people to participate and engage in governance must be afforded to them. Through an enhanced process of localized engagement of all stakeholders, including private sector and civil society the developmental objectives for the community can be met in a way which exceeds the capacity of one sector attempting the task on its own. The key in this entire process is for persons to be involved at every stage of governance from planning and implementation to monitoring and evaluation. In our view having a strong local government is absolutely critical to facilitating the participation of the wider population in the governance process. It is at this level that citizens must be able to voice their concerns and through the local government structure these concerns would be consequently treated with by the relevant authorities. For the MSJ, facilitating participatory governance through local government is so fundamental that the specific policy actions have been elaborated in a separate section. Additionally, Local Government must be enshrined in the National Constitution. Further details on our proposals on Local Government are to be found in this specific section.

  • Parliament should be spaces where people’s interests are effectively represented

    Ensuring that Parliament – both Lower and Upper Houses – are spaces where people’s interests are effectively represented is absolutely critical in the governance process, and is a primary objective of the Parliament. Oversight Committees of Parliament are also critical to ensuring that the Parliament provides true representation. These committees include: Public Accounts Enterprises Committee; Municipal Corporations, Statutory Authorities and Service Commissions Committee (with the exception of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission) and a Committee to oversee Public Procurement. At present many MPs who have constituency responsibilities, as well as Ministerial portfolios also sit on these committees. This is an obvious case of overstretched resources and therefore the work of these Committees is often diluted and does not receive the focus and attention it requires. The oversight component of the work of the Parliament is therefore weakened.

    We therefore propose that, those MPs appointed via PR who do not belong to the ruling party should serve on these committees. Given that they have been appointed via PR and do not represent constituencies, the problem of overstretched resources described above would be reduced, strengthening the very important oversight function of the Parliament. We have put forward that MPs in the lower house should serve on a full-time basis, Senators would also serve full-time.

  • Standing Committees as a Check and Balance

    Oversight Committees of Parliament are also critical to ensuring that the Parliament provides true representation. These committees include: Public Accounts Enterprises Committee; Municipal Corporations, Statutory Authorities and Service Commissions Committee (with the exception of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission) and a Committee to oversee Public Procurement. At present many MPs who have constituency responsibilities, as well as Ministerial portfolios also sit on these committees. This is an obvious case of overstretched resources and therefore the work of these Committees is often diluted and does not receive the focus and attention it requires . The oversight component of the work of the Parliament is therefore weakened. 

    We have put forward that MPs in the lower house should serve on a full-time basis; Senators should also serve full-time. This will enable the Committees to work continuously. 

    Standing Committees of Parliament should be set up for key national areas such as National Security, Foreign Affairs and Energy. These Committees would contribute to the process of developing national policy in these areas and assess and monitor the progress of policy implementation. 

  • Prime Minister must be directly elected by the people

    In this mixed system of representation, the Prime Minister would be elected directly and simultaneously with the election of MPs to the Lower House. Under the current system, the Prime Ministerial candidates are the leaders of political parties contesting the election, who themselves contest seats and therefore are voted in as MPs, but are not directly voted in as Prime Minister. We put forward, that Prime Ministerial candidates should not contest seats, recalling that the job of a constituency MP will now be full-time, but that citizens would now cast a vote directly for Prime Minister, at the same time that votes are being cast for MPs. This confers an advantage for citizens to have a more active voice in determining the country’s leader, and given that the Prime Minister would not be saddled with constituency obligations, neither the work of the constituency nor the nation’s business is neglected.

  • Employment in the public sector not based on partisan politics

    To ensure that the delivery of public services is not influenced by partisan politics - employment within the service must be done by an independent body and not by politicians and/or by persons working on their behalf. Public servants must be insulated from party politics, regardless of the party in power. We therefore believe that the Service Commissions (Public, Teaching, Police) ought to be retained and appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and other such persons as he/she thinks necessary (this is the current process).

  • Make Permanent Secs and HR officers responsibles for promotions and disclipline

    The role of these Service Commissions needs to be altered in so far as day to day human resource management is concerned since existing arrangements for promotions and disciplinary matters take far too long. We therefore propose that a system similar to that which now exists for the Police Service could be introduced in the Public and Teaching Services. Thus in a Ministry the Permanent Secretary and Human Resource Officers could be responsible for promotions and disciplinary matters while the Service Commission serves as an Appeals Tribunal for an aggrieved worker. Further, promotions and or appointments to senior positions (Heads of Departments/Divisions, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Permanent Secretaries) would remain the sole purview of the Service Commission; in the case of the Teaching Service, it would be Principals, Vice Principals and Deans.

  • Eliminate contract work in the Public Service

    In this regard, we further put forward that employment in the public service should be on a permanent basis, and NOT on contract, except in certain cases which may require immediate short-term intervention. Having public sector workers employed on a permanent basis would allow for a greater degree of continuity across the public service, and this in turn would contribute towards greater efficiency.

  • Return the functions carried out by special purpose compaines back to the Public Service

    The establishment of special purpose companies, which has effectively become a parallel public service, is not the answer to improving efficiency in the service. The functions carried out by these companies must be returned to the public service and the employees incorporated into the public service, thus re-professionalizing the service.

  • Use technology to help eliminate corruption

    Corruption in the public sector must be eliminated. There is a strong public perception that there are several key areas within the public service where corruption is rampant, or that the potential for corruption is very high. These include the Customs, Inland Revenue, Immigration and Licensing Divisions. These areas must be reformed urgently to wipe out existing corruption. The use of technology on a much wider scale in these areas is likely to reduce corruption as corrupt practices are often carried out by users of these services in an effort to avoid bureaucracy. Therefore, as technology is put into effect more widely and public service efficiency is improved, bureaucratic obstacles would be removed, thereby reducing, at least in part the incentive for corruption.

  • Implement better HR managment systems

    The process by which human resources are managed within the public service is key to improving efficiency within the service. There must be a clear management model with greater authority residing with line managers within the service. Improving human resource management in the public service must include the development of relevant and adequate organisational structures for each Ministry. Also related to public service human resource management is the remuneration of public officers. There needs to be a new approach to remuneration of state employee so that well trained and highly skilled persons could be attracted to these jobs, in turn strengthening the service. Essential to this is a thorough job evaluation process. A more effective management of the public service would lead to a more effective delivery of public services.

  • Modern and Safe working conditions

    Essential to improve productivity and efficiency is the provision of modern and safe working conditions to accommodate both employees and members of the public who are accessing the service. The review and streamlining of Public Service Regulations and work practices and procedures in order to bring these in line with the demands of a modern society.

  • Ensure that Ministers do not get involved directly in the operations of the ministry

    Also key to having a more effective delivery of public services is ensuring that Ministers do not get involved directly in the operations of the Ministry, but that this role is carried out by the Permanent Secretary and other relevant senior Ministry officials.

  • Reduce the number of Government Ministries

    Furthermore, the level of efficiency of the public service is adversely affected by duplication of effort, unclear lines of responsibility and splitting up of skilled human resources as a result of having a) too many Government Ministries and b) Government Ministries and/or Departments/Divisions of a Ministry operating as separate silos. One example of this is when citizens get ‘run around from office to office or Ministry to Ministry to have a road repaired or a watercourse cleaned only to be informed that it is the responsibility of some other There would therefore be significant advantages of limiting the size of the Cabinet and consequently of Ministries.

    In this regard, we propose a significantly reduced number of Government Ministries, Bureaucracy can be further reduced by changing the culture of decision making. For a start the number of decisions to be made by the Cabinet (e.g. through Cabinet Notes) should be reduced, thus empowering line Ministers to make decisions consistent with Government policy. Secondly, the management of Ministries has to be such that lower levels within the structures are given decision making authority.

  • The Process of Constitutional Reform

    A Secretariat must be established to implement this process. 

  • The Elements of Constitutional Reform

    Reforming our Institutions. 

  • Expanding the Bill of Rights

    A constitution’s Bill of Rights identifies those basic rights which each citizen must enjoy. The existing Bill of Rights should be expanded to ensure that each citizen is guaranteed those human rights which would allow one to attain a decent standard of living, given that the existing Bill is somewhat limited. There are several international examples upon which this expanded Bill could be modelled. For instance in the Constitution of Bolivia, water is enshrined as a human right, guaranteeing each citizen of that country access to a supply of water – which we would all agree is indeed a basic human right. Additionally, the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution includes one of the widest listing of basic human rights – equal protection of all citizens is provided for, regardless of race, gender, religion, political opinion or sexual orientation. A Trinidad and Tobago Bill of Rights patterned after the South African example would therefore guarantee our citizens a wide set of basic human rights.

Unlike the others, we don’t rely on big private party financiers to fund us. Instead we rely on people you! Support us from about $TT 35 Donate →