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Prime Minister Christie praises the Constitutional Commission
By Llonella Gilbert, BIS
Jul 11, 2013 - 1:49:34 PM

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Constitutional Commission’s Report -- Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie (at right holding the Report) received a copy of the Report of the Constitutional Commission into a Review of The Bahamas Constitution from members of the Constitutional Commission led by its Chairman, Sean McWeeney (holding the Report at left) in the Cabinet Room, Monday, July 8, 2013. The Cabinet Ministers were also present. (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)

NASSAU, The Bahamas -- Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie praised the Constitutional Commission that he set up to Review The Bahamas Constitution for getting the views of the Bahamian people from throughout the country during the information gathering process.

“We are so happy to see the emphasis placed by this Commission on consultation with people in our islands, because to too great an extent, because of the capital being here and the majority of people being here and this being the centre of Government, we tend to be Nassau centric, and so to that extent people of the islands are not full participants in the democracy of our country,” the Prime Minister said.

“So the fact that you have gone out there, you have sensed what they want to see and want to hear, I think is very important, but we must recognise that it is a work in progress.

“We have to pay a lot of attention to ensure that our democracy is understood and felt by people in our islands,” he added at the Presentation of the Report of the Constitutional Commission at the British Colonial Hilton, Monday, July 8, 2013.

Prime Minister Christie said the report will be read very carefully, keeping in mind that the Government of The Bahamas must take a position, must take it to the Legislature for its support and then ultimately, the Bahamian people will make the decision as to what recommendations they will accept.

He explained that the Government and the Opposition have received copies of the Report at the same time and will have to determine to what extent they are able to agree in moving forward with the recommendations of the Report and agree on what goes into making up the questions in the Referendum that will take place.

“We know already that we agree on eliminating gender discrimination in regard to citizenship and in respect to sex.”

The Prime Minister noted that he believes the recommendations made by the Commission are intended to bring about a deepening of the country’s democracy and a greater degree of accountability of the that democracy.

Chairman, Constitutional Commission, Sean McWeeney, QC explained that Prime Minister Christie appointed the Commission in August 2012 with the broad mandate “to conduct a comprehensive review of the Constitution of The Bahamas, and to recommend changes to the Constitution in advance of the 40th anniversary of Independence next year.  These changes will require a national referendum to be held in due course so that the will of the people can be determined on the matter”.

Mr. McWeeney said the Commission was directed to focus on thematic constitutional issues and specific questions.

“These included among others, the strengthening of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, with particular focus on citizenship provisions, a review of the provisions relating to the distribution of state power versus civil liberties and individual rights; whether The Bahamas should evolve from a Constitutional monarchy into a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations; matters relating to the Judiciary, including whether the Privy Council should remain the final appellate court; the composition of both Houses of Parliament, and accountability of political representatives.”

The Commission also had to consider questions relating to the country’s political system which were as follows:

Whether there ought to be fixed terms for general elections;

Whether there ought to be fixed terms for Prime Ministers and Members of Parliament;

Whether the electorate should be vested with limited rights to recall their MPs;

Whether the Senate, being an appointed body, should be constituted differently to encapsulate a broader cross-section of national interests;

Whether eligibility for service in the Senate should be lowered from 30 to 21, the same age that applies to the House of Assembly;

Whether the unqualified right to free speech enjoyed by legislators needs to be modified so as to give the individual citizen either a limited right of reply to defamatory attacks against him in Parliament, or a right to seek redress against the offending legislator in a court of law; and

Whether the constitutional power and authority over criminal prosecutions now vested in the Attorney General should be transferred instead to a constitutionally independent Director of Prosecution with security of tenure.

Members of the public who wish to review the work done by the Commission can find information on  www.bahamas.gov.bs.

Bahamas Constitution Commission Report (PDF Document)

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