SUMMARY REPORT ON MEETING OF COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE CONVENED TO REVIEW THE REPORT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSIONERS 2003 Report

It should be noted here that these were the final recommendations coming out of the Constitutional Committee's Report.

Pelican Room, Vue Pointe Hotel

26th January and 2nd February, 2005

(10:00 a.m.)

 

MEMBERSHIP:

Hon. Joseph S. Meade - Chairman

Hon. Dr. John A. Osborne - Chief Minister/Minister of

Finance and Economic

Development

Hon. Margaret M. Dyer-Howe - Minister for Agriculture, Land,

Housing and the Environment

Hon. Idabelle M. Meade - Minister of Education, Health

and Community Services

Hon. John E. Wilson - Minister for Communications

and Works

Hon Claude Hogan - Member of Parliament

Hon. Reuben T. Meade - Member of Parliament

Hon. Roselyn Cassell-Sealy - Member of Parliament

Hon. Dr. Lowell L. Lewis - Member of Parliament

Hon. Chedmond Browne - Member of Parliament

Hon. Esco Henry-Greer - Attorney General

Hon. John Skerritt - Financial Secretary

 

The Committee met on the 26th January and 2nd February, 2005. There was 100% attendance on the first day and 84% attendance on the second day when the Hon Reuben T Meade and the Hon Dr Lowell Lewis were absent.

 

The following recommendations were accepted:

 

1.      (i) - The Constitution should begin with a Preamble which links

it more closely to the values and hopes of the people of Montserrat (paras 4.1 – 4.3).

 

2.      (ii) - The fundamental rights section should be placed at the

front rather than at the end of the document (para 5.2)

 

3.      (iii) - Dense and convoluted phrases in the fundamental rights

section should be revised. Some in particular have attracted appeals to the Privy Council and complex judgments (paras 5.6 – 5.7)

 

4.      (vii) - Section 63(4) c of the Constitution should be amended to

protect persons born out of wedlock from discrimination (para 5.15). This could be provided for by local legislation however.

 

5.      (x) - Regional affairs and international finances should

be assigned to the portfolio of Ministers (para 6.10 – 6.12).

 

6.      (xiv) - It should be possible to ‘review’ the manner in which the

Governor exercises his powers under the Constitution (para

6.17)

 

7.      (xvii) - The one-constituency system should continue (para 8.7 –

8.8)

 

8.      (xix) - The Constitution should recognize the position of Leader of

the Opposition (para 8.13)

 

9.      (xx) - The Attorney General and Financial Secretary should be

non-voting members of the Legislative Council (para 8.14)

 

10.  (xxii) - A Chief Minister who loses a ‘No Confidence’ Motion

should not be allowed to determine whether or not the Council is consequently dissolved (para 8.16)

 

11.  (xxiii) - LEGCO should be required to sit at least once monthly

except in the month designated for recess (para 8.17)

 

12.  (xxvi) - Members of the clergy should be allowed to contest

elections and become MLCs (para 8.23)

 

13.  (xxvii) - The Constitution should require the Legislative Council to

establish a number of Standing Committees which shadow key portfolios (para 8.25)

 

14.  (xxviii) - The power of the Governor to ‘impose’ legislation should

be abolished let alone proposing amendments without debate (para 8.28)

 

15.  (xxix) - No laws passed by LEGCO should be disallowed by HMG

or her agents without reference to Council for further consideration (para 8.29)

 

16.  (xxx) - Members of Council should be required to swear on oath of

allegiance to the people of Montserrat as well as to the sovereign (para 8.30)

 

 

17.  (xxxv) - The Government of Montserrat should explore with Her

Majesty’s Government the possibility of entering into a Free Association arrangement (para 10.7).

 

18.  (xxxvi) - The role of Director of Public Prosecution should not be

combined with that of Attorney General (para 11.5)

 

19.  (xxxvii) - A section on Finance should be included in the revised

Constitution (para 12.1)

 

20.  (xxxix) - A section on Audit be included in the Constitution (para

12.4).

 

21.  (xlii) - The Constitution should provide for an Elections and

Boundaries Commission even if there is no immediate need to appoint one (para 13.4).

 

22.  (xlvii) - The age of legal responsibility should be reduced from age

21 to 18 (para 13.16).

 

23.  (xlix) - The Report should be debated in the Legislative Council to

allow members to express their views qua parliamentarians on the proposed changes (paras 14.3 – 14.4).

 

The following recommendations were accepted with amendments:

 

1.      (vi) - The Governor should be required to consult with the Chief

Minister before invoking his Emergency Powers (para 5.13)

Amendment

The Governor shall be required to consult and have the

agreement of the Executive Council before invoking his emergency powers.

 

2.      (xviii) - The Speaker should continue to be elected from outside the

elected membership but by a 66.6 majority at least (para 8.12)

 

Amendment

The Speaker should be selected from inside or outside of the the

elected membership by a 66.6% majority

 

3.      (xxxii) - In appointing the very senior public servants the Governor

 

 

 

 

should seek the concurrence of the Chief Minister, as far as possible (para 9.5)

Amendment

 

In appointing the very senior public servants, the concurrence of the Chief Minister must be sought.

 

4        (xliv) More importance should be given to birth as a criterion for

citizenship. This does not necessarily mean that citizenship by birth should be automatic (para 13.11).

 

Amendment

 

Birth should be a criterion for citizenship of Montserrat.

 

5.      (xlx) - The Constitution should be modernized and brought into

effect before the next elections which are constitutionally due in 2006 (para 14.6).

Amendment

The Constitution should be modernized and brought into effect as soon as possible.

 

6. (ix) - The Chief Minister should be involved in the appointment

of the Governor (para 6.9). (GoM should look at short list

of nominees and make recommendations to HMG).

 

7. (xxxi) - The Public Service Commission should be assigned an

executive function and enshrined in the Constitution (paras

9.2 -8) with special adoption of Para 9.5.

Recommendations should now be made to Governor-In-

Council instead of the Governor as per Rec. 3(xiii).

 

The following recommendations were rejected:

 

 

1.      (iv) - Section (ii) 2(a) of the Constitution should be amended to

avoid any suggestion of conflict with the right of presumption of innocence. ‘Reverse burden’ is recommended (para 5.11)

 

2.      (v) - The rights of public officers and teachers to exercise

freedom of expression should not normally be restricted. The Antiguan de Freitas case applies (para 5.12).

 

The Committee recommended that guidelines be

incorporated as amendments to General Orders

 

3.      (vi) - Section (ii) 2(a) of the Constitution should be amended to

avoid any suggestion of conflict with the right of presumption of innocence. ‘Reverse burden’ is recommended (para 5.11)

 

4.      (viii) - Victims of unlawful arrest and detention should

have an enforceable right to compensation (para 5.17)

 

5. (xi) - The Governor should retain ultimate authority for the

public service but with modifications (paras 6.13 – 6.14).

 

6. (xii) - The Governor should establish a suitably constituted Mercy

Committee through which the prerogative of mercy would be exercised (para 6.15).

 

 

7. (xiii) - The Governor should seek to delegate some of his reserved

powers as the 1989 Constitution enjoined (para 6.16).

 

The Committee recommended that (xiii) be replaced with the following:-

 

“These reserved powers as set down in the 1989 Constitution, should properly be vested in the Governor-in-Council”.

 

8. (xv) - There should be a Deputy Governor who would function

for practical purposes as Head of the pubic service (paras 6.19 – 6.23)

 

9.      (xvi) - There should be no increase in the number of ministries at

this time (para 7.2)

 

The Committee recommended that (xvi) be replaced with the following:-

 

Other Offices of ministers of Government may be established as required.

 

10. (xxiv) - Montserratians overseas who migrated since the volcanic

crisis and were registered, should be allowed to vote at the next election under certain stipulated conditions (paras 8.18 – 8.19).

 

11.  (xxxiii) - The Civil Service should nominate one member of the

Public Service Commission (para 9.7)

 

12.  (xxxiv) - There should be provision in the Constitution for a Police

Complaints Board (para 9.9)

 

 

 

13.  (xxxviii) - That constitutional arrangements be made for emergency

budgetary assistance from the UK government when the circumstances demand it (para 12.3)

 

14.  (xl) - There should be a Register of Interest for Legislative

Council members and senior public servants (paras 13.1 – 13.2)

 

15.  (xli) - The Constitution should provide for an Ombudsman who

can be employed on a fee basis (para 13.3)

 

16.  (xliii) - A civil servant should be required as at present to resign to

pursue a political career, but pension entitlements should be

credited to him if he were to return to the service on the

pensionable establishment (paras 13.5 – 13.9)

 

17.  (xlv) - The qualifying residential period for naturalization should

be no longer than seven years (paras 13.12 – 13.13)

 

18.  (xlvi) - Persons who migrated during the volcanic crisis after

having lived in Montserrat for over 20 years should qualify for Montserratian citizenship (para 13.14); and the Governor should be given discretionary power to consider persons who held Montserrat passports for up to 20 years for renewal provided they had not obtained them fraudulently (para 13.17 – 13.18).

 

19.  (xlviii) - The UK should make certain international agreements and

conventions applicable to Montserrat (paras 13.17 – 13.18)

 

 

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS/CONCERNS

 

1.                  Section 27 (a). It was recommended that this section be amended to reflect the following:

 

A candidate for election should be a BOT citizen of Montserrat and should have resided in Montserrat for 24 months immediately preceding the date of his nomination for election.

 

2.                  The Committee registered its strong objection to the second

Paragraph, under Para. 9.2 (Report of the Constitutional Commissioners 2002), with respect to “The Public Service Commission”

 

 

“I believe that there is almost universal consensus in Montserrat that this responsibility should not form part of a Government Minister’s portfolio as the temptation to victimise some civil servants would be almost irresistible.”

 

It was the view of the Committee that the assertion that elected representatives were given to victimization was totally unfounded.

 

3.                  The committee articulated its concerns over the figures shown in Appendix 3 – Data On Consultative Sessions Overseas and Appendix 4 – Data on Consultative Sessions In Montserrat. It was felt that the figures were not representative of the views of all Montserratians.

 

COMMENDATION

 

The Committee commended the work of the Constitutional Commissioners 2002, in general.

 

 

 

Respectfully submitted

 

 

………………………….……..

Hon John Osborne

Chief Minister

BACK TO             HOMEPAGE