DO WE HAVE TRUE SEPARATION OF POWERS IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO?
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely! (Lord Acton, 1834-1902). This phrase aptly demonstrates the reason for the separation of powers, which is meant to prevent abuse of power in a democracy and preserve each and every citizen’s rights through the division of government responsibilities into distinct branches, averting one branch from gaining absolute power or abusing the power they are given. The intent is to avoid the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances. Though it can be traced as far back as ancient Greece, the first modern interpretation of the separation of powers was introduced by the French enlightenment writer Charles Montesquieu in De L'Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws) in 1748. He believed that for liberty and freedom to be maintained a safeguard against centralisation of power in one person should be provided. Montesquieu wrote that a nation's freedom depended on the three powers of governance - legislative, executive and judicial – and that these three powers must be separate and act independently to effectively promote liberty. This principle has been widely used in the development of many democracies since that time. The question is asked though: ‘Is the separation of powers truly separate?’ This essay would be focussing on the separation of powers in Trinidad and Tobago and the question of whether there exists true separation of powers in this country. For this purpose we will also examine the differences of the Unitary and Federal State and will be using the USA as an example of a Federal State.
Trinidad and Tobago is a Unitary State governed by a democratic system. Unitary States exists in homogenous societies; there is one central government and all taxes goes back to the central government; one law making body and the laws made applies to the entire State. It is a single state. Federal states consists of a heterogeneous society, it is a combination of states and each state has the authority to make certain laws which may differ from state to state but Federal laws can override State laws; power is shared; and there is a State and Federal tax system. The USA is a Federal State. These two countries are governed under a democratic system which abides by the separation of powers and whose governmental systems both consist of an executive, judicial and legislative branch.
The legislative branch is responsible for the making and changing of laws. Trinidad and Tobago has a Bicameral Parliament, which means there are two houses, the Upper House or Senate and the Lower House or the House of Representatives. The Senate consists of 31 members: 16 government senators appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, 6 appointed senators on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and 9 independent senators appointed by the President to represent other sectors of society. They are all appointed by the President. The ratio in the Senate is always fixed because that is what is allowed in the Constitution. The number of members in the House of Representatives is not a fixed ratio because it all depends on the voting process during elections, which are supposed to be free and fair and free from fear, meaning that you can choose to vote for whoever you want without any victimisation or force to do otherwise. Whoever wins the seat will be appointed a Member of Parliament, by the President, and allowed to sit in the House of Representatives. Currently the House of Representatives, in Trinidad and Tobago consists of: 27 People Partnership seats, 1 ILP seat and 13 People National Movement seats. The party who wins the majority of seats would form the Government for the next 5 years.
The United States Congress is also a bicameral legislature consisting of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both representatives and senators are chosen through direct election....
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