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Chief Justice Urges Reform


Despite it being old, Chief Justice Michael Barnett said Thursday, the country’s constitution has worked well, but important changes can and should be made.

The chief justice who made proposals to the Constitution Reform Commission as the body prepares to review and make recommendations to the country’s governing document, said among the principles that should guide the commission’s decisions is a commitment to equality and human rights.

“Do these provisions strengthen our democracy, protect our citizens from abuse and comply with our obligations as a responsible member of the international community, particularly, the United Nations (UN) universal declaration of human rights; the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and the UN Convention on the rights of the child,” the chief justice said.

Sir Michael told the members to keep an open mind and he applauded the number of young people on the commission.

The chief justice said not being raised in the colonial era allows the younger members of the 13-member commission to bring a new perspective to the process and not be coloured by a desire to hold on to the past.

“Do not hesitate to look at other jurisdictions many of whom have considered the same issues that you will be considering,” he said.

“I assure you that seeing how others have addressed these issues will help you in your deliberations as to how to deal with these issues in our own country.”

The commission’s recommendations will be presented to the public in the form of a referendum next year; therefore, Sir Michael said its decisions should be representative of the population at large.

“You must bear in mind that any proposal for change must be able to receive widespread public support,” the chief justice said. “Change does not come easy. It is often disruptive and unsettling. The commission cannot ignore that reality in making its recommendations.”

“Whilst it is an argument for caution, it is not an argument for inertia. It is not an argument for cainotophobia, which is the fear of change.”

The Constitutional Commission was appointed by Prime Minister Perry Christie earlier this summer and given the mandate to conduct a review of the constitution and recommend changes ahead of the of the country’s 40th anniversary of Independence next year.

This is the first time a constitutional commission has been assembled since 2007 when the previous commission appointed in 2002 under the first Christie administration was effectively disbanded after the administration lost the general election.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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