JAM | Apr 21, 2023

Jamaicans’ voices needed in Constitution reform – Advocates

/ Our Today

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Marlene Malahoo Forte, Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, addresses a post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday, April 6. (Photo: JIS)

Members of the Advocates Network (AN) say that more needs to be done in order to engage Jamaicans on discussions surrounding the changing of the Constitution and Jamaica’s transition to a republic.

The advocates group noted that it has been more than a year since the establishment of the Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, a ministry whose main focus is to reform the country’s Constitution. However, they said there has been little detail given about how the voice of the Jamaican people will be heard in reforming the Constitution.

The group also noted that the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) was created to “provide expert guidance and oversight to the Government and people of Jamaica.” However, they said it was not established to get the perspectives from the Jamaican people.

A view of the Parliament of Jamaica from the gallery in Gordon House, Kingston. (Photo: JIS)

“We see this as fundamental not only in reforming our Constitution but, importantly, in making key decisions that affect the lives of Jamaicans in the new Jamaican Republic. Engaging the Jamaican people, at home and in the Diaspora, should take place prior to making any consequential decisions about the future of our country, not after,” they said in a release.

They continued: “To be meaningful, the process should convey to Jamaicans that their voice matters and will be seriously considered in reforming the Constitution. Anything less repeats the process of constitution-making in 1961, which produced a document that excluded the voice of Jamaicans.”

It was recently disclosed that the CRC made a recommendation for the President of the Republic of Jamaica to be nominated by the Prime Minister after consultations with the leader of Opposition, to later be confirmed in Parliament.

The advocate group noted that “without any information about proposed changes to the existing structure of the Parliament, this nomination process signals the perpetuation of the status quo of executive dominance.”

“After 60 years of independence with unsuccessful Executive sovereignty, we believe that the sovereignty of the Jamaican people must be at the centre of a new Jamaican Republic and reflected in a reformed structure of Parliament,” said the group.

They are also requesting the publication of the CRC’s full Terms of Reference (TOR), beyond newspaper summary reports, that will provide more details about the timeframe of the announced Phases and the process of engaging the people of Jamaica.


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