June 23, 2006
CRC proposals could change face of politics

A deliberate attempt to change this nation’s political culture is clearly embedded within the recommendations drafted by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and when the commission held a consultation with the media last Tuesday, June 13 at the House of Assembly’s chambers this view was substantiated in the discussions.

One of the proposed changes will see seven persons representing civil society serving in parliament in a new single-chamber (unicameral) legislative body to be called “The National Assembly” which according to the CRC’s master plan should consist of 27 persons.{{more}}

Chairman of the CRC, Former Attorney General Queen’s Counsel Parnel Campbell told the media personnel gathered that the commissioners were unanimous in their call for representation of civil society within parliament. He said the he believes that the population at large will appreciate a third, non-partisan voice in parliamentary discussions.

The experienced politician who contested three general elections and a by-election for the New Democratic Party, lamented that even through a politician may be an independent, fair thinking individual, once he represents a political party, there is a limit to the opposition that his party will tolerate from such a person.

“Political parties don’t like competition and can be quite hostile to neutrality.” He stressed that the commissioners felt it to be crucial to national development to have representatives from civil society, persons not towing particular party lines, making contributions in parliament.

Admitting that it isn’t impossible for these civil society representatives to be tainted by political bias, Campbell, however, believes that once given the opportunity there are many who could remain pliable and maintain their integrity, looking out for national and not a particular party’s interest.

Under the new structure the number of geographical constituencies will increase from 15 to 17, there will be two government senators and one from the minority party. The other seven places are proposed to be filled by this fresh, innovative concept of civil society representation. One person would represent the Vincentian Diaspora, elected by delegates of Vincentian organizations in the Western Hemisphere while the other will be similarly elected to represent Vincentians in the rest of the world. The other five places in the National Assembly will be filled by civil society representatives elected out of five appropriately grouped civil society categories. These categories will encompass faith-based, labour, social, gender and sports among other types of organization.

During the discussion with the media, chairman Campbell admitted that he expects some opposition to these revolutionary changes but reiterated his commissioners’ confidence in the recommendations they have put forward for consideration.

Two other crucial paradigm shifts recommended by the commission are limiting Prime Ministers to two terms of office (10 years) and limiting his veto power to the appointment of the Cabinet Secretary. The Prime Minister will, therefore, no longer have veto powers over the appointment of Permanent Secretaries who are the heads of government ministries.