Commonwealth qualifications to sit in Parliament up for review
One of the 13 provisions of the constitution to be reviewed for Jamaica to become a republic will include the Commonwealth qualifications to sit in Parliament.
Speaking at the recent ministerial briefing hosted for diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in Kingston, Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte said this matter is of particular importance to Jamaicans in the diaspora.
“[There are Jamaicans in the diaspora] who feel that there are many nationals within the wider Commonwealth who are constitutionally eligible to sit as a parliamentarian, but who have taken up citizenship in the United States, which falls outside of the Commonwealth, and are barred from doing so,” she said.
“When I served in my ministerial role here at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I had responsibility for diaspora affairs, that was one of the issues that were constantly raised, and I know that it remains on the agenda of diaspora issues and resolution with the Government,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Government will also review the provision that speaks to the constitutional life of Parliament, which is currently five years, and also the circumstances in which you could have a holdover.
A holdover of Parliament involves the tenure of Parliament going beyond the dissolution date.
Minister Malahoo Forte said that the constitution prescribes a holdover of a maximum of 12 months if Jamaica is at war.
“We have learnt that had we come to the full life of the Parliament during the COVID-19 pandemic and we were unable to hold the elections in the early phases when everything was uncertain, we would have found ourselves in a constitutional crisis of no mean order,” she said.
“Coming out of the COVID-19 experience, we would have to expand the provision beyond a state of war to other calamities which would truly classify as the kind of emergencies that the international instruments facilitate suspension of your regular constitutional affairs,” the minister added.
Other provisions to be reviewed include the composition of Parliament, which currently provides for a monarchy, Senate and a House of Representatives, and provisions relating to qualifications to serve in both houses and the number of senators and elected parliamentarians.