Letters & Opinion

Proposals for a New Constitution

By Neville Cenac
By Neville Cenac

Aim & Purpose
THE aim and purpose of this article is to bring about a no-party government in a multi-party state, whereby, the party with the majority works in the interest of all, as intended by the 1979 Constitution, “the supreme law”, which shows us the way in which our country is to be governed.

The idea therefore is not to abolish parties for the phrase “in a multi-party state” governs the sentence; and it is well-known that it is the party system that keeps the breath in the nostrils of parliamentary government.

The foundation for the proposals being advanced for consideration was, painstakingly, laid in two previous articles:
i) in the Voice of the 31st October, 2015 (page 6), where the rhetorical question is posed; “Is it our Constitution or men who need remodelling?” and
ii) in The Star of the 21st November, 2015 (page 15), entitled, “A Constitution can be written on the Back of a Postage Stamp” by being true to the one Christian commandment that embraces all the Ten Commandments, which is: “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” five simple words.

The proposals and the articles are, therefore, of one substance and are to be read as if fused into one another.
For the purposes of those only who have neither read nor digested the two articles, I shall restate three things:
i) the 2011 findings of the d’Auvergne Commission which identifies our problems as:
a) “the overwhelming concentration of power in a small Cabinet…which cried out for change;” and
b) “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.”
ii) the conclusion of Georges Bidault, Prime Minister of France in 1948 and 1958 that: “The good or bad fortune of a nation depends on three factors: its constitution, the way the constitution is made to work, and the respect it inspires”; and
iii) my own commitment since my entry into politics in 1968 to get rid of the limitless power our leaders had arrogated unto themselves, whereby the last word in every decision was theirs alone.

Before I come to the proposals, I shall say again that our Constitution is perfect as it is. Has it not been working wonderfully for Britain since the Reform Act of 1832 that made her a constitutional democracy? But because “the way in which our Constitution is made to work”…”cries out for change”, have I, at 76, come forward again, for the sake of this generation and theirs, to put things to rights so that the same 1979 Constitution which “the People of Saint Lucia affirmed their faith in”, would be envied for “the respect it inspires”, by our “ability to restrain or to influence” those in whom power has been vested, to do justice and to govern wrong.

The Proposals
The Governor-General
1. The Person holding the office of Governor-General shall be appointed by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister shall ensure that the entire House of elected and nominated members is in agreement. Prior to doing so, however, he shall seek nominations from the religious, economic or social bodies or associations in the country. He shall submit at least two names for consideration and the meeting shall be in closed session.

2. There shall be a Parliament of Saint Lucia which shall consist of Her Majesty and a House of Justice.
3. The Senate shall be abolished having proven to be ineffective as a revising chamber, and a waste of money and parliamentary time since its creation in 1979.

The House of Justice
4. The House of Justice shall consist of 30 members:
i) a Prime Minister;
ii) seventeen (17) elected members;
iii) eleven (11) nominated members; and
iv) a Speaker with a fictional or nominal seat in the House.

The Prime Minister
5. He shall be elected by the people on his own merit. He shall have no affiliation to any party: thus he shall be the Prime Minister of everyone, dispensing justice for all within the radius of his authority. On that basis, no leader or group could any longer frustrate the aspirations of anyone worthy of the highest office within the gift of the people. And so, every mother’s child fresh from the womb, could be marked as a potential prime minister, all hindrances having been removed.

6. The Prime Minister shall be elected on a manifesto which upholds “the principles of social justice” solemnly consecrated in the preamble to the 1979 Constitution, the spirit that vivifies it. It directs that:
i) the operation of the economic system “should result in the material resources of the community being so distributed as to subserve the common good”; and
ii) “opportunity for advancement” be “on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity”.

7. He shall hold no other office than that of Prime Minister. His prime office shall be the management of all the ministries as if he were the Chief Executive Officer of a company, for which excellent management skills are required.

8. His main function shall be:
i) to ensure that his Minister for Finance finds funds to fund the various programmes in the Budget; and
ii) to cause surpluses to be created, to reduce the debt burden, pay for our own development, minimize borrowing; and make us equal in status with others, and not beggars.

9. As his management of the ministries would be a full-time job, he should not be a perambulator. He should, therefore, except on important state missions, be confined to his office as the Prime Minister of England is to No. 10 Downing Street, and the President of the United States is to the White House.
The Elected Members

10. The island shall be divided into 17 constituencies. Each shall return one (1) member to the House of Justice.

11. Each of the 17 elected members shall be the Governor of the Constituency and shall be referred to as “Governor”.

12. As contemplated in the preamble to the Constitution (clause (f)), the sums voted annually in the Budget shall be apportioned in an equitable manner to each constituency according to its needs, and as prioritized by its Governor who shall be the watchdog of such funds.

13. The Governor who holds a Cabinet post shall be assisted in the performance of his duties by the Chairman of the Constituency Council who shall be paid an allowance for his services. The Constituency Council shall be elected and not nominated.

14. Each person vying for the office of Governor of a Constituency (whether on a party ticket or as an independent) shall be elected on a manifesto highlighting the basic principles of the party and his plans for the development of the constituency. The manifesto shall form the basis of his proposals in seeking allocations prior to the passage of the Budget.

15. In consultation with the Chairman of the Constituency Council, the Governor shall appoint Rural Constables to maintain peace and order in the various divisions of the Constituency, to assist the police in the performance of their duties.

16. In particular, to eliminate crime, and promote a healthy and safe environment, the Rural Constables shall keep the constituency free from gangs and shall discourage loitering and harassment. To discourage such conduct, the Governor shall, with the assistance of the Constables, keep a register of gangs and loiterers, to ensure that employment is found for them, especially in construction and roadworks. His paramount duty shall be to keep the hands of the poor employed, the best remedy for a peaceful environment.

17. The office of Governor shall be a full-time job, therefore.

18. No additional funds should be incurred for the maintenance of the offices of Governor for at least two reasons:
i) the Governor should be paid no more than three-fifths the salary of a minister; and
ii) the radical reduction in the number of ministers and ministries would counterbalance the increased expenditure necessary for proper representation of the constituency.

The Nominated Members
19. Eleven persons shall be nominated to the House of Justice by the procedure outlined below. It shall be free from party considerations.

20. The following institutions shall each submit the names of two of its members to the Governor-General for appointment:
i) the Christian Council;
ii) the National Youth Council;
iii) the Chamber of Commerce;
iv) the Trade Union Council;
v) the Bar Association;
vi) the Farmers Association;
vii) the Credit Union Council;
viii) the Medical & Dental Council;
ix) the Sports Council;
x) a representative for Human Rights, the poor and people in crisis.

21. The Governor-General shall cause the Speaker to convene a meeting of a special committee of seven of the elected members to choose the eleven nominated members from the list of persons submitted to him or her for appointment.

22. The Special Committee of seven shall be chosen by the Speaker in alphabetical order, first, the first three, and then the last four, to avoid partisan selection.

23. The nominated members shall vote on all matters, save on financial matters and on a vote of no confidence in the Government.

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