'Presiding House easier in Trinidad'

RS Chairman Shekhawat finds handling Parliament in Trinidad is comparatively easier, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2006 20:02 IST

Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who is the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, may be bracing up to handle a stormy parliamentary session back at home from November 22.

But, here he found a sitting of the House of Representatives—the elected Lower House of the bicameral Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago—a much tame affair and any presiding officer's envy.

Shekhawat saw the conduct of the question and answer session during which Opposition MPs quizzed the government on a controversial airship deal, cost overruns with regard to a stadium named after cricketer Brian Lara, and even an adjournment motion on a gas leak tragedy.

In sharp contrast to pandemoniums he has weathered in the Upper House in New Delhi, Shekhawat found the MPs following the rule book—waiting to speak and be heard.

Earlier, at a luncheon hosted in his honour, the Vice President invited a parliamentary delegation from Trinidad and Tobago to visit India, saying "parliamentary institutions of two countries cope up with challenges posed by diversity of ideologies, languages and ethnic groups."

Party politics in this country have generally run along ethnic lines, with most Afro-Trinidadians supporting the People's National Movement (PNM) and most Indo-Trinidadians supporting various Indian-majority parties, such as the United National Congress (UNC) or its predecessors. Most political parties, however, have sought to broaden their purview.

In the recent months a new political presence has emerged called Congress of The People (COP). The majority of this membership was formed from defunked UNC members and UNC members that has decided to leave the UNC to form the new COP party.

One of the country's most controversial politicians, Basdeo Panday, is now firmly out of Parliament, 30 years after holding a seat in the legislature. Panday's seat became vacant last month, 150 days after he was convicted of failing to declare a London bank account to the Integrity Commission, as required by law.

The House of Representatives sits in the Red House in Port of Spain. It has 36 members, each elected to represent single-seat constituencies. The Parliament is elected with a five-year life-span, but may be dissolved earlier by the President at any time if so advised by the Prime Minister.

After an election, the person with the most support among the members of the House is appointed Prime Minister and asked to form a government. With the exception of 1995 and 2001 this has been the leader of the party which wins a majority of seats in the house.

First Published: Nov 11, 2006 19:18 IST