Eyes on Independent Senators’

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As the Revenue Authority(TTRA) bill goes before the Senate this morning, a political scientist has made the point that the way the Independent Senators’ vote remains important to see, once again, that is, even though all their votes are not necessarily required for the bill to pass. 

Political Scientist, Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath, in a telephone interview with PSA media yesterday was commenting on the TTRA bill. A bill that previously required a special majority but under the new version will only need a simple majority. This is despite the bill still having the practicality to affect citizens’ constitutional rights to privacy and property.  

Dr. Ragoonath said: “We have to bear in mind, that the government depends to a large extent on the independent benches once the bill goes into the Upper House. If they can convince one or two members of the independent bench to vote with them then that by itself gives the government approach some degree of legitimacy.” 

During the vote on the anti-gang legislation in March of this year, that bill too had required a  constitutional majority but had suddenly been reduced to a simple majority. The clauses that once ensured that the Opposition’s support was necessary were taken out. In the end, the Opposition United National Congress abstained their vote from the anti-gang bill, but all nine Independent Senators voted with the government. 

Although  Dr. Ragoonath noted that he could not at the moment say with certainty what aspects of the Revenue Authority(TTRA) bill was altered in a way to change the constitutional majority that was needed for it to be passed, he said he held the opinion that the watering down of those bills left the government in a position where they could have to defend themselves at the courts. However, he stated that it seemed to be a risk that the government was willing to take. 

The Revenue Authority(TTRA) bill if passed will affect more than 2000 public servants at the Board of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise Division. The Public Services Association(PSA) President, Watson Duke in a one on one Zoom meeting with members yesterday assured the affected employees that if the bill was proclaimed into law when it reaches the House of Representatives on Friday, then the PSA will challenge the legality of the simple majority at the High Court.