Work Of Constitutional Commission On Schedule

The work of the Constitutional Commission to look into various aspects of constitutional reform is on schedule, said Chairman Sean McWeeney during a hearing on Friday, October 19, 2012.

The commission is engaged in the first round of consultations with leaders of the political parties. Leader of the Democratic National Alliance Branville McCartney appeared before the Commission at the British Colonial Hilton.

“We are having interviews with prominent leaders in our society beginning with the political leaders.  We also expect to have the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the former Prime Minister as future guests of the Commission,” Mr. McWeeney said.

Throughout its work the Commission will dissolve itself into three separate committees to interview other leaders of civil society covering the broadest possible spectrum of national interests. Public consultations will also take place in New Providence and the Family Islands.

“The work is going very well and we are on schedule. This is the first round of consultations that the Commission is engaged in now,” Mr. McWeeney said.

In a Communication to the House of Assembly on August 1, 2012, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced the appointment of the Constitutional Commission and mandated it to conduct a comprehensive review of the Constitution of The Bahamas and to recommend changes to that effect.

The Commission is expected to report its recommendations to the Government on or before March 31, 2013. The inaugural meeting was held August 29, 2012 at the British Colonial Hilton.

Its members have been given a broad mandate to build upon the work done by the first commission appointed on December 23, 2002 but was effectively disbanded after May, 2007.

Former Attorney General Sean McWeeney, QC, is heading the Constitutional Commission. Chief Counsel in the Chambers of the Attorney General Loren Klein serves as the technical co-coordinator of the Commission’s Secretariat.

Other members of the Commission are former Attorney General and Minister of Education Carl Bethel, Madam Justice Rubie Nottage (Retired), Mark Wilson, Lester Mortimer, Tara Cooper-Burnside, Michael Stevenson, Dr. Olivia Saunders, Michael Albury, Chandra Sands, Brandace Duncanson and Carla Brown-Roker.

Secretary to the Commission is former permanent secretary Thelma Beneby. She is assisted by Annie Lloyd, Darron Henfield, Sonobia Smith and Veronica Frazer.

The Commission will address anti-discrimination, fundamental rights provisions and other citizenship-related issues; questions relating to the retention and enforcement of Capital Punishment.

Other issues to be examined are whether The Bahamas ought to remain a constitutional monarchy or evolve into a republic. And, whether or to what extent the Caribbean Court of Justice or a final local court should replace the Privy Council as its final court of appeal.

Other questions for revision include fixed dates for general elections, fixed terms for Prime Ministers and Members of Parliament, invest limited rights in the electorate to recall their MPs and whether the constitutional power over criminal prosecutions be transferred to a constitutionally independent Director of Public Prosecutions with security of tenure, amongst other things.

Amongst Mr. McCartney’s recommendations is the establishment of fixed constituencies, which can only be changed according to international criteria.

He also suggested that Members of Parliament be required to submit a five-year plan for their respective constituencies, to be undertaken during their five-year term.

Mr. McCartney further suggested limiting the powers of the Prime Minister, Public Service reform so as to make it more efficient for conducting business for Bahamians and foreigners.

“I do wish every success to the Constitutional Commission. Implementation of some if not all of the recommendations will be good for The Bahamas,” he said.

By Lindsay Thompson
Bahamas Information Services