Understanding the Law
November 13, 2009
A closer look at the proposed constitution- Part 10

LAST WEEK we looked at some parts of the proposed constitution where the role of the Prime Minister is different from that under the current constitution. For years we have lamented helplessly of some of the extraordinary powers of the Prime Minister and his ability to exert power. This week we will continue to look at other parts where his influence may be reduced.{{more}}

The Prerogative of Mercy

Under the current constitution the Prime Minister has the powers to advise the Head of State as to which criminal should be granted pardon and whether a condemned person should be saved from the gallows. In this way the Prime minister has the right to determine if a condemned person should live or die. According to sections 133 an134 this recommendation would come from the Parliamentary Commission. The Parliamentary Commission is a body that is appointed under section 130 of the proposed constitution. It will consist of ten members and only two members and the Attorney General would come directly from the Government, one comes from the Minority government and the others are distinguished nationals.

Public Accounts Committee

The Prime Minister’s role is also diminished in the above named committee. Under section 85 of the proposed constitution it shall consist of six members from the National Assembly or such other numbers as the Standing Orders will provide from time to time.

The chair person will be the minority leader and subsection 3 provides for the majority to come from the opposition parliamentarians whether representatives or senators. The functions of this body are given under section 158. The Committee

has to consider public accounts along with the report given by the Auditor General. Its duty is to report “any excess or unauthorised expenditure” to the National Assembly. It could also report any measure necessary “to ensure that public funds are properly spent”. Parliament has power to add to the function of this committee in relation to public accounts.

Public Service Commission

There are five members of this body presently and besides his influence in the appointment of all persons the Prime Minister has discretion in appointing the chairman and two others.

Section 160 provides for a chairman to be appointed by the President acting in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Minority Leader. The Prime Minister has the authority to give advice to the President concerning appointment of one other person but he must consult with the Minority Leader before giving advice to the President on one other person. He must share with the Public Services Union that is the body representing public officers, when he gives advice for the appointment of one other member. For the last member, the President will appoint him or her after consultation with civil society on his own deliberate judgment.

The Magistracy

In an earlier article the issue of life tenure was discussed. Under the proposed constitution, contracts could no longer be terminated and magistrates could only be removed for misbehavior in office.

The Commissions

The establishment of certain Commissions, one of which is the Ombudsman, is intended to provide for the rights of people so that all roads would not lead to the Prime Minister.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]