Three more constitutional recommendations

Three more items will be added to the list of recommendations already approved by Cabinet for the proposed referendum to be held in the first half of the year on constitutional reform in Grenada.

That’s the word from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod as he addressed reporters Tuesday at the first weekly post-Cabinet briefing held at the Ministerial Complex.

Nimrod, the Member of Parliament for Carriacou and Petite Martinique told the assembled journalists that five more recommendations were submitted by the Constitutional Referendum Commission, headed by Dr. Francis
Alexis but the Cabinet of Ministers decided to go forward with only three.

He said that one of the latest recommendations that was given the greenlight related to the appointment and tenure of the Governor General to be decided by an Electoral College consisting of the House of Representative and the Senate.

He spoke of Cabinet agreeing to the proposal since it was felt that it would “shield the process and the Governor General from any political interference”.

“…I am pleased to say that the Government in the spirit of compromise had agreed that of course the appointment and tenure of the Governor General would be done by an Electoral College but let me warn you that the details have not yet been formulated”, he said.

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has been advocating for the list of recommendations to be strengthened with more substantial issues than those agreed to by Cabinet.

According to Minister Nimrod, the other issue that would now go forward was for the Prime Minister to be limited to three consecutive terms in office but that the same person can return after the following general elections if he/she so desire.

“We saw no harm in this and we want to say of course we are mindful not about this Government but it’s something that would of course impact on the future of the country and we are not doing anything for the benefit of this present administration as such. We’re doing it for the benefit of the nation and for the future of the nation and of course we think that the term limit was reasonable and of course Cabinet has agreed that we can go with that,” he remarked.

Also for inclusion in the referendum is the proposal that there must be an opposition serving in Parliament despite the results of general elections.

According to Minister Nimrod, the government saw nothing wrong with that recommendation.

“We did not see any real harm in having someone appointed as an Opposition Leader even when the other party gets the majority or get absolute majority as is obtained right now. So in other words we feel that in the spirit of democracy, we felt that there was no harm in making sure you have an opposition and those of you that have been into the Parliament…we feel that the sessions in the Parliament will be much more spirited if we at least have an opposition”, he said.

“… It is good to hear the argument from another side. I think in that circumstance the whole public will be the beneficiary so we had no problem with that,” he added.

However, the Number Two man in the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration was quick to point out that the leader of the opposition would not necessarily be the political leader of any party.

Speculation is rife that the NNP rulers were opposed to the decision taken by former Governor-General, Sir Carlyle Glean to appoint Congress Leader, Nazim Burke as one of the Opposition Senators when his party failed to win any seats in the February 2013 general elections.

Nimrod announced that two of the five recommendations that did not get approval from Cabinet were a fixed date for election and recall of Parliamentary Representative after 18 months.

“A fixed date for an election such as in the United States for example that you know before hand when election is due opposed to the present Westminister System, when a Prime Minister can call election at any time, they are asking that we bring some certainty in terms of the date the election would be called. We have not dealt with that in any significant way because this can be done by legislation and so we felt that we do not necessarily need to take this to a referendum,” he said.

The conditions being advanced by the committee for the recall of a Parliamentary Representative after 18 months were that 25% of the voting population in that particular constituency can initiate a recall through a petition.

Minister Nimrod told reporters that Cabinet decided that the time given to assess an MP was not enough.

“First of all the Cabinet didn’t believe that 18 months was a sufficient time to judge any newly appointed parliamentarian and we think it would be unfair to recall such a person in such a short duration of time without giving them enough time to prove themselves and so we didn’t support that one,” he said.

With respect to all of the recommendations made, Nimrod said it is believed that the decisions that were made by Cabinet were the right ones.

He stated that the date for holding the referendum cannot be decided on as yet as there is the cost factor to be considered, in the vicinity of two million dollars.

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