An eight member panel gathered at the National Museum on Young Street on Monday evening to have a friendly debate as to whether or not an election to appoint Senators would increase the country’s democratic process.
The Resolution: “Be it resolved, that allowing the people a right to vote for all seats in the Senate will strengthen our democratic process” was supported by four members while three were against and one neutral.
As it stands now, Senators are nominated to serve in the Upper House of Parliament.
The debate organised by the Open Forum, Discussion and Debate headed by Social Activists Jude Bernard and Peter Antoine is the first held for 2018.
The group has been in operation for approximately five years and meets on a monthly basis and invites interested persons to hold discussions on National Civic and Political issues in a non-partisan atmosphere.
THE NEW TODAY along with one other media house from the electronic media attended the debate and spoke with three of the participants who presented on the motion, two who were for it and one who was against.
Political activist for Congress, Ron Redhead who appeared as an independent debater at the forum told reporters that the motion seeks to effect change and as such he was in full support for people voting into the Senate those who they want to represent them.
“The question of how a Senator is chosen I believe that this is something that we must all as a society look at. It must talk about the need for deeper involvement of the people, not only from the Lower House but the Upper House as well, taking fully into account what the Upper House was designed to do”, he said.
“I think going for this motion it would have been a misdemeanor if I went against it because there is need for greater participation on the level of the people and if this is one mechanism that it should occur, I am for that,” Redhead remarked.
Also giving support to the resolution was Civil Society representative, James Nicholas whose remarks were mainly highlighting the farmers’/fishermen’s representative in the Senate.
According to Nicholas, whoever wishes to serve in the Senate must first meet with who they intend to represent and the people must be able to make a determination if that person is right for the job.
“So therefore, we must have recognition of that person through association etc. who would come to the various communities and have discussions, maybe more than one person.
“Whoever wants to (throw) show their (hat) in the ring, so to speak, have discussions with the farmers, the fishermen with their trade union people all over the country….
“So, we have to go into a political process of electing these representatives. I am saying that with these three persons that give representation for these sectors, we have to go into a process whereby they come to the community, the fishermen community and we speak to them and they speak to us before we could then select someone who will get representation to that body of people – that is not happening now.
“It is not happening because what is maintained is that there is a representation from farmers/fishermen association and has never met with a constituency, never met with the farmers, maybe he has, I don’t know.
This change would be what they call true representation. It cannot be an adhoc thing like what has been happening before and true representation means that they must meet with the constituency of which they represent or intend to represent.
Jude Bernard was not in support of the motion on the grounds that he was fearful that giving people the opportunity to elect Senators would give life to the ruling party having all the representatives in the Senate.
“To me the Lower House, the House of Representatives, the political party dominates and to me the Senate which is Upper House, is supposed to have wider sectoral representation and not just political parties and if it comes to a situation where everyone has to be elected in a national election, it is almost a replication of what happens in the House of Representative and I didn’t want that to happen because we see what can happen with campaign financing and all those other things,” he said.
“You may just end up having persons who are supported by a party again as opposed to persons representing the Farmers, Business Sector, Trade Unions Etc. and I think while these people can be elected internally as a local election, it can be done nationally, in a sense that only farmers will be voting for farmers and only business people will be voting for the business representative and the youth will be voting for the youth but if you have it open as another general election to me it would just be opening things into the arms of the political parties again and we’ve lost that opportunity to have non-partisan involvement at that very important Upper House.
Grenada has been deemed to be currently operating as a “one-party state” given the clean sweep at the polls by the ruling New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Dr. Keth Mitchell in the 2013 and 2018 general elections.