Categorized | National News

Commission Set To Review Constitution- Will Present Recommendations Next March

The newly appointed 13-member commission assembled to review the constitution and make recommendations for changes will begin its regular meetings beginning mid-September, according to Constitutional Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney, QC.

The commission was formally introduced during a luncheon at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel yesterday.

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 such a 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.

Mr. McWeeney said the recommendations of the previous commission never materialised largely because the administration that convened the commission was voted out of office; however, he predicted that this time around, the current commission would unlikely meet the same fate since it was commissioned early in this administration’s term.

“We have a very ambitious, very aggressive mandate to report rather quickly so there is every expectation that with the political will being what it is at the moment that there is really no danger of this commission meeting the same fate that the last one did since there is no general election between now and when we end,” the chairman said.

The commission will begin regular bimonthly meetings next month and is expected to complete its work and make its recommendations to the government by the end of March, 2013.

Mr. McWeeney appeared confident that the commission would be able to meet its mandate and complete its work within the six-month timeframe.

“It’s a very ambitious very aggressive timeline but I think having regard to the work that was done by the first commission that the need for public consultation is perhaps not as great and not as extensive as it was before,” he said.

“We will be able to use other methods of public consultation, using the internet and setting up chartrooms to communicate with the public to allow that channel of communication to be made available to the public.”

The commission is comprised of a cross section of individuals from the legal, corporate and educational communities that Mr. McWeeney said ensures that a diverse range of the population’s interests are represented.

“You’re trying to get the broadest possible cross section of individuals but at the same time having regard to what we refer to as economies of scale,” Mr. McWeeney said.”Ideally, in terms of ensuring that all points of view are represented, you’d probably end up with a hundred-man commission but that’s obviously not practical.

“I think in this commission you do have the advantage of having many different disciplines and interest groups represented and to the extent that important interest groups are not represented we intend to fill that vacuum through direct consultation with the relevant bodies or representatives of the relevant bodies.”

Among the issues expected to be reviewed by the commission are ending gender-based discrimination; examining whether The Bahamas should remain a constitutional monarchy or evolve into a republic; whether the Privy Council she be removed as the country’s final court of appeal. It will also review fixed election dates and fixed terms limits for prime ministers and MPs.

Once the government has reviewed the recommendations of the commission, the issues will be brought to the electorate to decide through a referendum.

“The decision-making will actually be left to the Cabinet at the end of the day,” Mr. McWeeney said. “What our job is is to come up with recommendations. To the extent that there is sharp differences of opinions in the commission, that is something that we will identify to the government.

“We might say that the majority of members may want a particular recommendation to go forward, but we are almost evenly divided, so this is something the government has to consider to the extent that that division may mirror the divisions within the country.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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