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A Non-Partisan Head Of State

CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION REPORT.

THE Head of State in a Republican St Lucia should be a non partisan person who should be elected at a joint sitting of chambers of parliament by a simple majority vote.

This is one of the recommendations of the Constitutional Reform Commission whose report THE VOICE continues serializing today with the conclusion of Chapter 4, titled BECOMING A REPUBLIC WITH A NEW HEAD OF STATE:

The Head of State of Saint Lucia
The Commission considered Chapters II – The Governor General and IV – The Executive of the Saint Lucia Constitution jointly as some of the topics were closely related. There was consensus on a submission that the office of the Governor General should be abolished in favour of a Ceremonial President. With this change, the monarchical system will be replaced.

Method of Appointment
The Commission supported a submission that proposed a system in which the Nation, through its representatives in Parliament, elects the Head of State on the basis of indirect election as opposed to direct election by the people. The Commission agreed that the ceremonial President should be elected at a joint sitting of Parliament by a simple majority vote to replace the Governor General and that the Deputy President should be elected in like manner at the same time.

The Commission agreed with the submission that a non-partisan person should be appointed as Head of State and that such an appointee should be scrutinised by both chambers of Parliament after a duly submitted recommendation by the Prime Minister following consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

Qualification
There was consensus that the Head of State should be a Saint Lucian by birth who must be between the ages of thirty-five (35) and seventy-five (75) years of age. The individual must have a minimum residency of ten years immediately preceding his/her appointment.

The person who is elected to hold the office of President of Saint Lucia should not have held office in a political party or should not have been a candidate for elective politics within ten (10) years of his/her election as President.

Tenure
The Commission agreed that the President should be subjected to term limits and that no more than two consecutive seven-year terms should be permitted under the Constitution. The Commission believes that the seven year term would promote continuity in the office and would reduce the politicisation of the office. It must be noted, however, that there was a minority but vocal view within the Commission who felt that the term of office of the President should be restricted to five years to coincide with the parliamentary electoral cycle of five years.

Removal from Office
The Commission found the provisions of the Constitution of Dominica on the issue of the removal of the President from office to be suitable for implementation in Saint Lucia with appropriate adjustments.

The President and Deputy President should be removed from office where: he/she wilfully violates any provisions of the Constitution; he/she is found guilty of an indictable offence; he/she behaves in such a way as to bring the office into hatred, ridicule, contempt or disrepute; he/she behaves in a way that endangers the security of the State; he/she is unable to perform the functions of his/her office because of mental or physical incapacity; or any circumstance were to arise that, if he/she were not President, would cause him/her to be disqualified to be elected under the provisions of the Constitution.

Procedure for Removal
The office of the President shall become vacant if-
(a) the House (acting upon a motion signed by not less than one third of all the members of the House proposes the removal of the President from office on grounds of complaint specified with full particulars in the resolution;

(b) a tribunal consisting of the Chief Justice and two other judges of the Supreme Court appointed by the Chief Justice, being as far as practicable the most senior judges, investigates the complaint and makes a report on the facts thereof to the House; and

(c) the House, after considering the report, by resolution supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of the House declares that the President shall be removed from office.

Parliament may make provision with respect to the powers, practice and procedure of tribunals established for the purpose of subsection 1(b) of this section and, subject as aforesaid, any such tribunal may by regulation or otherwise regulated its own procedure.

Where a resolution is passed in accordance with subsection (1)(a) of this section, the President shall forthwith cease to perform the functions of this office; but he may resume the performance of those functions if, after the House has considered a report made to it under subsection (1)(b) of this section, no such resolution as is referred to in subsection (1)(c) of this section is passed.

Recommendations
With respect to the Head of State, the Commission recommends the following:

(56) The Governor General should be replaced by a ceremonial President with similar powers and responsibilities, save and except as otherwise recommended in this report.

(57) The ceremonial President should be elected at a joint sitting of Parliament by a simple majority vote after a duly submitted recommendation by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Minority Leader .

(58) There should be an office of Deputy President who shall be elected in like manner at the same time as the President.

(59) The President should be a Saint Lucian by birth who has been resident in Saint Lucia for a minimum of ten years immediately prior to being nominated and must be between the ages of thirty-five (35) and seventy-five (75) years and should not have held office in a political party or stood for election as a candidate for elective office within ten (10) years of his/her nominated for President.

(60) The same qualifications should apply to the Deputy President as for the President.

(61) The President should serve no more than two (2) consecutive seven-year terms.

(62) The grounds and procedure for the removal of the President or the Deputy President from office should follow the equivalent provisions in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica with appropriate adjustments.
(63) Neither the President nor his/her Deputy should have control of any Ministry of Government.

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