Committee head explains constitution reform

Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Committee, Dr. Francis Alexis said the public should not be too concerned about the reform of Grenada’s 1974 Constitution, as it will address most of the concerns that bothers people.

Dr. Alexis was speaking on a current affairs radio programme along with committee member, Ruggles Ferguson, the newly re-elected President of the Grenada Bar Association

The committee has been holding consultations across the country in order to raise awareness among the public about the need for reform of the Constitution that was inherited when Grenada became independence from Britain in February 1974.

Dr Alexis advanced the argument that a reformed constitution could stir economic growth for the island.

“Let me tell you this, the reality is that the constitution helps to engineer economic development and if the constitution is not right for providing the proper atmosphere for economic development to that extent economic development is going to be retarded,” he said.

According to Alexis, constitutional security is needed to promote investment, constitutional happiness spurs production and constitutional satisfaction brightens national pride and patriotism.

“We talk about South-east Asia and the way the economy work across there, those people are happy with their constitutional arrangement, we in the distance might have a different

“…The fact is they are on the ground, they are satisfied with the constitutional arrangement, they identify more with the state, they work not only for themselves individually, they work for their state and there by they give increased productivity,” he added.

A former Attorney General between 1990 and 1995, Dr. Alexis rejected the idea being brought forward by some persons on the island that the time is not appropriate for changing the constitution, saying that “now is the appointed time, now is the accepted day for saving the constitution.”

For persons who are worried that they will have to vote on the whole constitution, Dr Alexis said that only certain changes and that approximately seven bills will be put up for voting.

He noted that there are many controversial issues that need deep consideration by the people, one of those being the state of Grenada without an elected opposition.
“We will keep all the 15 constituency representatives, that’s not going to be touched at all, that’s the only thing in the constitution that is untouchable,” he said.

“We are going to suggest that there be created four or five proportional representation (PR) seats and the way that will work is this: the morning after we elected the 15 constituency representatives, the electoral authority goes back to the table sees what percentage of the total number of votes was obtained by the NNP or by the NDC and will allocate to each party the percentage of the PR seats corresponding with the percentage number of votes cast”, he added.

Dr Alexis pointed out that if the NNP got 52% of the votes cast nationwide then the party will get 52% of those PR seats.

“The consequences will be that you are going to be guaranteed that there are elected members of Parliament always in the house and consequently there would be an elected Opposition Leader – Proportional Representation will be the only means of electing MP’s.
“…Once your core 15 constituency representatives are there and you are talking about only 4 or 5 PR seats to guarantee an elected opposition presence in the Parliament and to guarantee a leader of the opposition, there cannot be a difficulty.

Under the system being proposed, Dr. Alexis said no PR member can ever become the Prime Minister but that job will always be given to an elected constituency representative.

This proposal, he said would ensure that PR members do not gang up on the Prime Minister to unseat him from power.

Committee member Ferguson used the programme to address the concerns of many that the present constitution confers too much powers on the Prime Minister.
The attorney who heads the law firm Ciboney Chambers said one of the things on the agenda that is geared at limiting the powers of the Prime Minister is a fixed date for elections.

‘You have also very importantly the call for elections, now the issue of fixed dates for elections which removes the power from the Prime Minister to remove from his back pocket the date for election because that obviously puts the ruling party at a particular advantage,” Ferguson said.

Speculation is rife that the country could return to the polls for a referendum to change the constitution sometime towards the end of the year or early in 2015.

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