Concerns continue to be raised over the appointment of Works Minister Gregory Bowen to act as Attorney General (AG) on two separate occasions by the one-year old Keith Mitchell-led administration.
The issues was first raised by the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) which informed the nation that the acting appointment was in clear violation of the constitution since Minister Bowen, a qualified Engineer has no background in law.
The senior government minister was first appointed to act as AG in November 2013 and again in February in the absence of barrister-at-law, Cajeton Hood, the substantive holder of the post.
Now that islandwide consultation are taking place with regards to constitution reform, the issue surrounding Minister Bowen is gaining much attention throughout the country.
Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Constitution Reform, Queen’s Counsel (QC) Dr. Francis Alexis indicated that government cannot appoint somebody to be the AG if the
Dr. Alexis who is a former AG himself said it is quite clear that there is the need for constitutional reform which will point out what is needed for an AG.
He told the “Sundays With George Grant Program” that his committee is not intending to present one single ominous Bill of the new constitution.
According to Dr. Alexis, as many as seven Bills could be brought before Parliament with proposed changes to the constitution that was given to Grenada when the island became
Dr. Alexis indicated that as the consultation moves around the country, his committee has realised that people are thinking very seriously about the constitution.
Apart from the appointment of Minister Bowen to act as the country’s AG the NDC has also been raising the awareness of the people with regards to the Office of the Supervisor of Elections.
Dr. Alexis said these two issues make the case for constitution reform.
He added that with regards to the office of the Supervisor of Elections it shows that there is need for an independent Elections and Boundaries Commission and not a Supervisor of Elections operating all by himself.
He also said the constitution has to clearly spell out the qualification for someone to be appointed AG.
“Far from retarding the exercise on constitution reform, all these points being made in particular as regards to Supervisor of Elections and the Attorney General, these are strong, relevant and indeed contemporary strong points for constitution reform,” he remarked.
The two major political parties on the island – New National Party (NNP) and NDC have representatives serving on the Advisory Committee on constitutional reform.
Recently NDC Political Leader Nazim Burke told the media that Congress which is represented by former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas on the body will no longer participate in the process if the current constitution continues to be abused by the Mitchell Government.
Dr. Alexis told the host of the program that Sen. Burke is not more concerned than the members of his committee that nothing should be said and or done to undermine the national flavour to the referendum on constitution reform.
“I have personally called for, time and again, what I call a truce between the (two political) parties. Because if you going to approach this as a political partisan thing you are doomed form the start. It must be done as a national cross-party exercise, and we on the committee are begging, we are beseeching the Party Leaders to put down the past strive and look at this as a national objective,” he said.
Dr. Alexis indicated that this is not merely for the opposition NDC but the government also has to “behave properly” on such an important issue.
Member of the advisory committee Ruggles Ferguson who also appeared on the programme made reference to the appointments of the AG as spelled out by the Grenada constitution.
Ferguson indicated that section 70 of the constitution says very clearly that the Attorney General shall be the principal legal advisor of the Government.
He also made the point that another section of the constitution sets out that the Office of the AG may either be a public office or be that of a Minister.
The constitution says a public officer AG like the current holder Cajeton Hood is a public office AG and is not a member of parliament.
The public office AG has to be appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) that is cheered by the OECS Chief Justice. The public office AG can also hold the post of Director of Public Prosecution.
Ferguson said if the person holding the position of AG is not a public officer he believes that person must still be an attorney who is not a political AG which does not have to have the approval of the JLSC.
He stressed that in order to be a political AG the individual must be a member of the House of Representative and a Minister of Government or a member of the Senate who is a Minister of Government.
“It is obvious contemplated that you must be a lawyer if you have to be the principal legal advisor of the Government,” he said.