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Constitutional Review Commission Recommends: St. Lucia A Republic

The late Justice Suzie d'Auvergne
The late Justice Suzie d'Auvergne chaired the Commission
The late Justice Suzie d’Auvergne chaired the Commission

Saint Lucians have spoken loudly against the way they are being governed and have called for drastic changes starting with a break in the constitutional link with Britain.

Their suggestions for change are among the 190 recommendations of the government-appointed Constitutional Review Commission whose report was made public this week.

The Commission was appointed following passage of a resolution in the House of assembly in February 2004. Headed by the late Justice Suzie d’Auvergne, its mandate was to “review and reform the Constitution of Saint Lucia in order to encourage effective governance, to ensure that the institutions of State remain strong and responsive and that the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all persons are respected.”

Some of the Commission’s recommendations include:

*The present Saint Lucia Constitution should be repatriated and the constitutional monarchical system should be abolished and replaced with a republican constitutional system.

*Discrimination based on sexual orientation is unacceptable and marriage should continue to be between a man and a woman

*Capital punishment should be retained and The Caribbean Court of Justice should replace the Privy Council as Saint Lucia’s final appellate court and entrenched in a new Constitution, so that it is afforded similar protection as the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the domestic legal system.

*No person should be appointed to the office of Prime Minister for more than three consecutive five-year terms. Where a Prime Minister has served for three consecutive terms, he/she may return after a hiatus of five years.

*The system of elected Local Government in Saint Lucia should be re-established.

*The island should embrace the current global trend of creating a regulated environment for political parties and elections campaign financing.

*A Political Party and Elections Campaign Finance Act should be enacted which would among other things provide for a system of both private and public funding.

*The new Act should require full disclosure of all the financial contributions made to political parties. Non-disclosure should therefore be an offence.

*Political parties should declare their assets and liabilities.

The 23 member-team began its work in June 2006. Its final report to the government is dated March 2011.

In carrying out its mandate the Commission consulted widely with the people of Saint Lucia, both at home and abroad. It sent small teams of two Commissioners to well known Saint Lucian communities living abroad, including St. Croix and St. Thomas, in the USVI, Tortola and Virgin Gorda, in the BVI, Barbados, Martinique, New York, Washington, Toronto and London.

At the end of the assignment, the Commission said it emerged with “a renewed respect for the uncommon wisdom of average citizens; a genuine admiration for the remarkable Saint Lucian spirit, and the surprising knowledge of a remarkable consensus.”

This consensus, the Commission wrote, was that the so called “Westminster inheritance” in the Saint Lucian context “has at worst, not worked, or at best, been a double-edged sword.” But on the one hand, the Commission said it recognised an acceptance that transplanting a version of British democracy in Saint Lucia, had perhaps contributed to a level of stability and continuity in our system of Government, which was desirable.

It said it found “a reasonable consensus” among our people that what was perhaps appropriate for Britain with its large Parliament and relatively small Executive, guarded by hundreds of backbenchers, was somewhat inadequate in a country of only 17 constituencies and in which the near total domination of a small Executive over the Parliament, was virtually guaranteed.

“Put another way, we recognised a general agreement that the overwhelming concentration of power in the hands of a small Cabinet, was an unacceptable situation which cried out for change. In fact, the Commission observed a real hunger for constitutional change. It discerned restlessness with the status quo, which manifests itself in a pervasive, near universal discontent with politicians and politics alike. At the heart of this cynicism, we detected a widespread belief that our Constitution condemns us to a situation in which, our governments, once elected, seem beyond our ability to restrain or to influence”, the report said.

Citing some other concerns raised by the public, the Commissioners said saint Lucians bemoaned the lack of appropriate checks and balances on Cabinet authority, the lack of a real separation between the Cabinet and the Parliament, and the lack of real and measurable accountability, expected from a mature system of government.

The report went on: “In sum, the Commission gradually came to accept the fact that Saint Lucians appear to be dissatisfied with their system of government although this concern was not always expressed in the same way. For some, the problem was a lack of local government. For others, it was the lack of the ability to elect the Prime Minister directly, or the lack of a mechanism for recalling ineffective or dishonest parliamentarians, and for still others, what was required was the creation of new and super-powerful institutions to deal with abuses. For many, the solution was most or in some cases, all of these”.

8 Comments

  1. I agree with the last two paragraphs (motions) in the article, by all means eradicate abuse of power but question the level of consultation made with St Lucians abroad. Similarly, in 1983 when the immigration laws changed in Britain , Citizens of all relevant the Countries in the Caribbean who migrated lost their British Citizenship rights, the majority were not given proper representation or the opportunity of a full consultation about the changes.

  2. I agree with the last two paragraphs (motions) in the article, by all means eradicate abuse of power but question the level of consultation made with St Lucians abroad. Similarly, in 1983 when the immigration laws changed in Britain , Citizens of all relevant the Countries in the Caribbean who migrated lost their British Citizenship rights, the majority were not given proper representation or the opportunity of a full consultation about the changes.

  3. “The present Saint Lucia Constitution should be repatriated and the constitutional monarchical system should be abolished and replaced with a republican constitutional system.”
    ——————————————————————————————————————————
    There are only four Republics in the entire Caribbean: Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic; with oil-rich Trinidad being the only English-Speaking one. Why would St.Lucians recommend this form of government (that is sure to get us removed from the OECS) is beyond me.

  4. I wish the Review committee members were more mature individuals with a very profound sense of citizenship and governance, behaviourally anchored in real democratic principles of a modern day polity. All we have here is a raft of proposals with scant positive impact but representing a real caricature and charade of representative government. Why?

    In a world of fast-moving globalization, it matters precious little whether or not we become a republic. It does not at all change the price of coffee. It does not affect our status in the OECS. Our French heritage is more of an obstacle to OECS membership than the reluctance of the political directorate to give up some of their power to determine the benefits of warming the seats in the House while securing their over-generous benefits, especially that annual shout-crap-in-the-House- for-sufficient-years-to-collect-a-pension benefit.

    I wish the TOR of this futile search committee could have included a recommendation for a political economy. The transfer of more power to the executive branch of government at the expense of the general population shows that not only those babies were wet behind the ears. Water was oozing from behind there too!

    1. Man, you missed another republic. It is Dominica or rather “The Commonwealth of Dominica”. Is Dominica still a member of the OECS? Yes, it is. So, go back with this argument and do some research before engaging in this forum.

      1. The person said this much:
        ======
        It does not affect our status in the OECS
        ====

        Therefore what part of de word “not” you did not overstand?

        Stop smoking de ganja mi son. It is not good for you head.

      2. “Man, you missed another republic. It is Dominica or rather “The Commonwealth of Dominica”.”
        ———————————————————-
        CROW, you can’t be a Republic and be a member of the Commonwealth simultaneously. Therefore, the Commonwealth of Dominica is NOT a republic.

  5. This again highlights the main issue I have with the current administration. Of all the issues we face in Saint Lucia:
    1. Young people not being able to afford university, while all our Caribbean counterparts pay economic cost for their smart students, we continue to perpetuate a vicious cycle where only the kids of the rich get a degree, therefore ensuring that the middle class does not expand.

    2. Farmers having no markets for their produce because we put no requirements on hotels to purchase from them. Where the hotels are importing produce out of miami to Jamaica and changing the package to make it appear that it is from Jamaica.

    3. Young people are unable to find jobs or have no means of investing in their future.

    YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THIS IS WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SEES AS IMPORTANT? OF WHAT PRACTICAL BENEFIT WILL THOSE CHANGES BE? COME DOWN TO REALITY KENNY ANTHONY. ITS A REAL WORLD OUT THERE WITH REAL MOTHERS AND CHILDREN WHO DO NOT HAVE ANY FOOD OR JOB SECURITY, WHO HAVE NO HOPE. STOP GIVING THOSE SPEECHES LIKE YOU ARE SOME CIVIL RIGHTS FIGHTER AND LET US GET DOWN TO THE REAL BUSINESS. PUTTING MONEY IN THE POCKETS OF POOR PEOPLE AND EXPANDING THE MIDDLE CLASS OF SAINT LUCIA. WAKE UP KENNY BOY! WAKE UP!

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