Government has further delayed formally naming the members of the Constitutional Reform Committee that will oversee the reform of Jamaica’s Independence Constitution.
Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, made the announcement on Tuesday during a statement in the House of Representatives. She said the delay is until the next round of the Vale Royal Talks which are scheduled for this month.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding last month declined to name members of the Opposition People’s National Party to the commission for several reasons, among them being that he wants the Government to indicate which of the deeply-entrenched provisions in the constitution it intends to amend.
A larger sticking point is that Golding has expressed his preference for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to become Jamaica’s final appellate court at the same time the constitution is amended to remove King Charles as Jamaica’s Head of State.
Golding insists that he does not support the piecemeal approach to constitutional reform, arguing that Jamaica should embrace full independence by replacing both the Monarchy and the UK-based Privy Council, Jamaica’s final court of appeal, at the same time.
“I have repeatedly indicated that the reform work will be done in phases beginning with the provisions which ultimately require the votes of the electorate to change, through the process of a referendum,” Malahoo Forte said in her statement.
She stressed that “collaboration and cooperation are needed between the two sides of the Parliament and between the Parliament and the electorate to make the change to abolish the Constitutional Monarchy and establish the Republic of Jamaica”.
The constitutional affairs minister noted that these provisions are set out in Section 49 of the constitution and are the hardest to change as they are given the highest level of protection by virtue of the process and procedure required to change them.
Emergency powers, in particular those relating to a state of emergency (SOE), are also among the deeply-entrenched provisions of the constitution and Golding wants to know what changes the government proposes to this section.
The Opposition has opposed the repeated use of SOEs by the government, declaring it to be unconstitutional and ineffective in fighting crime.
The Vale Royal Talks are a mechanism for members of the two major political parties to have bipartisan discussions on critical issues of national importance and find solutions to Jamaica’s common social problems.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on December 28 last year that the talks would have resumed in January as part of efforts to build consensus on issues of national importance between the Government and Opposition.
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