Chairman of the government-appointed Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), Dr. Francis Alexis has applauded the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration for having the political will to move forward with the process of constitutional reform in Grenada.
Dr. Alexis, a highly rated Constitutional expert, who was a guest on the weekly “Sundays With George Grant” radio programme last Sunday felt that last Friday, December 4th was a day of momentous historic significance for Grenada with six Bills approved by Cabinet to bring about constitutional reform getting their first reading n the Lower House of Parliament.
The Bills are an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to change the name of the State from Grenada to Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique shortly entitled Constitution of Grenada, Name of State (Amendment) Bill 2015, and an Act to amend the Constitution of Grenada so that after other amendments are carried out Chapters and Sections would be repositioned and renumbered, and references to existing sections would be altered correspondently if necessary in both the body of the Constitution and in the schedules, shortly entitled Constitution of Grenada Restructuring (Amendment) Bill 2015.
The others are an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to make better provision for the Rights and Freedoms of the individual, shortly entitled Constitution of Grenada Rights and Freedom (Amendment) Bill 2015, an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to establish an Elections and Boundaries Commission to carry out the functions provided by the Supervisor of Elections and the Constituency Boundaries Commission, shortly entitled Constitution of Grenada Elections and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill 2015, and an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to provide for the establishing of the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final Appellate Court for Grenada in substitution for Her Majesty in Council and to provide for other justice related matters, shortly entitled Constitution of Grenada Caribbean Court of Justice and other justice related matters (Amendment) Bill 2015.
The other Bills that had their first readings were an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to limit the term of office of the Prime Minister, to authorise Parliament to set a fixed date for General Elections, and to ensure that there is at all times a Leader of the Opposition, shortly entitled Constitution of Grenada Term of Office of Prime Minister, Fixed Date For Elections, and ensuring the Appointment of Leader of the Opposition (Amendment) Bill 2015.
Dr. Alexis indicated that since 1985 the country has been embarking upon constitutional reform through the Constitution Review Commission under the leadership of former St Kitts Governor, Sir Fred Phillips.
“Getting there to the fourth of December… has been a long journey and I must say, we have to give credit to the will of the government of the day, the political will, to steer the course up to last Friday,” he said.
The CRAC Chairman felt that “it would have been a very devastating thing… if those Bills are not being read.”
He said the starting point by his group in recommending the items for constitutional reform was to use the reports of 1985, 2006 of Justice Lyle St. Paul, and the draft Constitutions by Professor Randolph McIntosh.
He added that his 14-member committee could not have gotten to last Friday’s sitting in Parliament to deal with the bills had it not been for the foundations laid by all the other previous bodies.
Dr. Alexis admitted that recall of a parliamentarian was put forward by CRAC, but this was shot down by the Keith Mitchell-led Cabinet of Ministers.
However, the CRAC Chairman said there is a provision on the code of conduct which will require parliamentarians to compose themselves with dignity in an appropriate way.
For the first time the nation heard through Dr. Alexis that from among the six Bills there are 70 proposals for the people to vote on.
The item for the Bill of Rights and Freedom contain 45 proposals, he said.
The Bill pertaining to the Caribbean Court of Justice and other justice related matters contain nine proposals.
The Term of Office Bill has four proposals which include having a Leader of the Opposition at all times.
Name of State has two proposals which are to rename the State to Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, and to correct the spelling of “Petit Martinique.”
Dr. Alexis told the programme host that there are several proposals in the Bill of Elections and Boundaries.
A news release issued to the media by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) states in part that “…the referendum on constitutional reform … is scheduled to take place on 26th April (2016).”
However, Dr. Alexis said “I can’t sit here and say it (the referendum) will be on the 26th (April 2016). I can’t do that.”
The Constitutional Lawyer sought to explain the process to be used in the referendum.
He described the referendum as an election in which the people would vote on the question whether they agree to proposals in a Bill passed by the Houses of Parliament to amend the Constitution.
Every person who is eligible to vote in parliamentary elections will be entitled to vote in the referendum.
It takes two-thirds of the vote casts on each of the Bills in the referendum, as well as a two-third vote among Parliamentarians to have them become legal and effective.