Remote Deliberation in Trinidad and Tobago: Navigating Parliamentary Proceedings During a Pandemic

About Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago

Strategic Partners

Written on September, 2020

  1. Introduction

The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated the adoption of remote work and virtual meetings in various aspects of society, including government and parliamentary procedures. Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean nation located off the northeast coast of Venezuela, is no exception. In this essay, we will discuss the country’s experience in transitioning to remote deliberation for its parliament, the challenges faced, and the benefits that have arisen from this new approach.

  1. The Transition to Virtual Meetings

In response to the pandemic, Trinidad and Tobago’s parliament, known as the Red House, began hosting virtual committee meetings starting May 21st, 2020. This historic event marked a significant shift in the way parliamentary business was conducted, with staff and committee members alike adapting to the new format. These virtual meetings were organized and facilitated by the IT and broadcasting units, with security measures in place to prevent unauthorized access and disruptions.


III. Challenges and Solutions

  1. Technological Challenges

Transitioning to virtual meetings required addressing various technological challenges, such as ensuring that members were familiar with using Zoom and that technical issues could be quickly resolved by IT staff. Additionally, the parliament needed to find secure ways to share documents without using the virtual meeting platform, ultimately opting for email and private cloud services.

  1. Cybersecurity Concerns

The risk of cyber-attacks and hacks was a significant concern for Trinidad and Tobago’s parliament. To prevent unauthorized access and the sharing of inappropriate content, the IT department employed various security measures, such as requiring registration for meetings and closely monitoring the proceedings.

  1. Adapting Parliamentary Rules and Procedures

Despite the significant shift to virtual meetings, Trinidad and Tobago’s parliament did not need to change any internal rules, and the standing orders for the house and senate remained the same. However, plenary sessions have not yet been conducted virtually, as changes to the standing orders would be necessary to facilitate this transition.

  1. Benefits of Remote Deliberation
  1. Increased Participation and Attendance

The move to virtual meetings resulted in a higher rate of participation from members, with full attendance recorded for most committee meetings. Members could join from the comfort of their homes or offices, eliminating the need for travel and reducing the impact of external factors such as traffic and protests.

  1. Continuity of Parliamentary Business

Remote work, previously not taken seriously by the parliament, has become a critical aspect of its functioning. The use of technology has ensured the continuity of parliamentary business and allowed for greater collaboration between staff and other organizations.

  1. Conclusion

The experience of Trinidad and Tobago’s parliament highlights the adaptability of government institutions in the face of unprecedented challenges. Despite initial difficulties, the transition to remote deliberation has led to increased participation, enhanced security measures, and the uninterrupted continuation of parliamentary business. As the world continues to navigate the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the example set by Trinidad and Tobago demonstrates the potential for resilience and innovation in the realm of governance.

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