Naming of Constitutional Reform Committee Members Delayed

Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, has advised that the naming of the Constitutional Reform Committee’s members has been delayed.

The Committee’s purpose is to provide expert guidance and oversight to the Government and people of Jamaica during the Constitutional reform process, to implement recommendations on which consensus has been reached.

Mrs. Malahoo Forte explained in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (January 10) that Prime Minster, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, was unable to name the members, as Opposition Leader, Mark Golding, has deferred on indicating the representatives selected from his side to sit on the Committee.

“The Leader of the Opposition has advised that the concerns he has are such that he will not be naming the members of the Opposition to sit on the Committee at this time. I don’t think I can express sufficiently to the people of Jamaica how disappointed I am with this position,” the Minister said.

“It has not taken me by surprise that there are matters that the Parliamentary Opposition feels strongly about and, in particular, the issue of the final court for Jamaica. We do not, at this time, have consensus, even though we are agreed on many other things on the particular subject matter,” she added.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Malahoo Forte said the Government intends to hold a referendum in early 2024 relating to Jamaica’s proposed transition to a republic.

“It will take nine to 12 months, ambitiously, to pass the Bill to amend the Constitution to establish the Republic of Jamaica. The Constitution says there must be a three-month delay between first reading and second reading. We can’t start the debate unless three months have elapsed, and then there is another three months between the second reading and the third reading,” she informed.

“That makes it half a year of dead time. So, it doesn’t matter how ambitious our goals are, we will not get done before nine to 12 months, if everything else flows smoothly. It was our hope that, having passed the Bill, we could then prepare the people of Jamaica… to help them vote in a way to ensure that we succeed in achieving the goal,” the Minister added.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Malahoo Forte advised that the Government is ready to proceed and has detailed the draft terms of reference for the Committee to adopt. She further informed that indicative timelines have been set.

The Committee is also expected to build consensus in areas where it has been eroded or is non-existent on important matters related to the process.

The body will also be required to assess how the passage of time has impacted the recommendations of the 1995 Joint Select Committee on the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Report.

Members will, additionally, advise on what fresh perspectives should be considered, in light of previous and current national, regional, or international developments, and propose any necessary modification to update the recommendations for implementation.

The Committee will also evaluate the recommendations on the establishment of the Office of a President, advise on the nature, qualification, tenure of the incumbent, and the legislative, executive or ceremonial powers to be exercised by that individual.

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