There appears to be some friction within the government-appointed Constitution Reform Advisory Committee on moving ahead with the exercise.
Committee member Sandra Ferguson has signaled her intention not to sign onto the latest recommendations from the Dr. Francis Alexis-led committee to be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers headed by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Ferguson has written a letter to Dr. Alexis expressing her concerns about the prepared document.
As a public service, THE NEW TODAY newspaper has decided to reproduce the letter in full:
Dr. Francis Alexis
Constitution Reform Advisory Committee
VIP Box 116, Grenada National Stadium
November 24th, 2014
Dear Dr. Alexis,
Re CRAC Further Report Updated
First of all permit me to apologise for my inability to attend Retreat II which took place on Saturday, November 22nd. As was indicated prior, I had a previous commitment that had been rescheduled from November 8th to accommodate Retreat I. This one could not be further postponed.
I am in receipt of the above-referenced report to be presented as the further recommendations of the CRAC. Kindly be advised that I will not be affixing my signature to this report or endorsing its recommendations to the Cabinet.
I believe that the process by which these decisions has missed a step of further engagement, giving opportunity to the wider public to be engaged in the decision-making on key issues that will fundamentally affect their lives and future.
Permit me also to make the following observations:
– Dr. Lawrence Joseph, in his presentation at the NCCR on behalf of the CRAC noted that constitutional review is the examination of the constitution with the aid of consultation in order to make the constitution better.
– A key issue that has been raised in prior constitution reform efforts and currently is the need for checks and balances to the Executive.
– The people of Grenada have become acutely aware of the need for checks and balances, given Grenada’s experience, for a second time, in having a situation where one party controls all seats in Parliament and a significant percentage of the people remain without representation in the House of Representatives.
I have noted the following:
1. Ref. 11.0: Election and Tenure of the Governor-General: The Governor-General
would be elected by an Electoral College which shall be a unicameral body consisting of all the members of the House of Representation (‘the House’) and all the members of the Senate assembled together.
The College would be convened by the Speaker, and presided over by him or her.
(a). If provisions are not made to also affect the make-up of the House of Representatives and the Senate but remains a situation where the Executive Officer will still wield significant power (e.g. in the choice of Senators), is there really a material difference in selection process of the Governor-General?
(b). The provision stops short of stating what percentage of the Electoral College must be in favour of the choice for it to carry.
(2). Ref. 14.0: Recall of Parliamentary Representatives: ……..There should be no Recall before 18 months of a Representative being elected; or during the last year of a Parliamentary term.
a. What is so magical about 18 months or the last year? Permit me to suggest that this is a decision for the people to deliberate on and give the Committee directions.
(3). Ref. 15.0: Fixed Date for General Elections: The Committee recommends that the Constitution be amended to say that the House of Representatives and the Senate may each by a simple majority vote pass a Bill to provide for a Fixed Date for General Elections.
(a). I repeat the following comments made in No. 1 preceding. If provisions are not made to also affect the make-up of the House of Representatives and the Senate but remains a situation where the Executive Officer will still wield significant power (e.g. in the choice of Senators), is there really a material difference reselection of the date for elections.
The questions that the CRAC needs to ask itself are:
– Do these further recommendations address the real issue of checks and balances and
– Should the people of Grenada be given an opportunity to inform the further recommendations that go to Cabinet for deliberation?
Sandra C.A. Ferguson