Constitution Reform: The UNC’s record

Is it true that the UNC did not undertake constitutional reform efforts?

This very common remark is incorrect.
The UNC has engaged in extensive Constitution reform over the years during its two terms in office.

What was some of the most important legislation passed?

In the UNC’s first term of office (1995-2001) it did not have a majority, but it was still able to pass significant constitutionally significant amendments and legislation. These changed the course of politics and government in our country forever.

These include:

  • The THA Act, entrenching the Tobago House of Assembly in the Constitution
  • The Joint Select Committees of Parliament Act to make every Ministry accountable

In addition to these Constitutional Amendments, there was:

  • The Freedom of Information Act
  • Judicial Review Act
  • Equal Opportunities Act

These measures made Government more accountable and answerable to citizens than ever before, and more than the PNM ever wanted.

The PP government (2010-2015) held a long constitutional reform exercise with extensive National consultation and a serious report being formulated.

The Report is available here:

This resulted in a number of pieces of legislation in being laid in Parliament or debated. The most significant ones which were passed and enacted were:

  • The introduction of Proportional Representation in Local Government
  • The Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act
  • Revision of the Standing Orders of Parliament (first time since 1951), with the inclusion of Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time
  • Amendments to have the Standing Finance Committee be publicly debated and chaired by the Speaker, instead of by the Minister of Finance behind closed doors
  • Giving effect to the Crossing of the Floor Act

Others which were laid in Parliament included:

  • $10 million fund for every MP
  • Term Limits
  • Right of Recall
  • Runoff Elections

The above bills lapsed in the 2014 Parliament. New elections were called in 2015, and these reforms were not pursued by the PNM.

The UNC still committed to Constitution reform?

The UNC is absolutely committed to Constitution reform and will continue its program based on the extensive National consultations held previously, and new ones in future.