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Constitutional Reform Committee to be convened before month end

Published:Wednesday | February 8, 2023 | 2:17 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte addresses lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte addresses lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The Government has pledged to formally establish the Constitutional Reform Committee at the end of the next round of Vale Royal talks expected to be convened before the end of February.

At present, there is a stalemate between the Government and the parliamentary Opposition over some prerequisites that Opposition Leader Mark Golding wants satisfied before he names members to the proposed constitutional reform caucus.

It is not clear at this time whether the administration will proceed with naming the committee and starting the discussion on constitutional reforms without representatives of the Opposition being on board.

The uncertainty arises based on the Opposition’s stance that it will not name members to the committee until the Government divulges details of proposed amendments to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and deeply entrenched provisions in the supreme law.

At Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, Golding told Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte that she did not have a monopoly on “disappointment”, as he, too, shared similar sentiments about the Government’s refusal to share the requested information.

The Cabinet minister had earlier expressed dismay that Golding continued to decline the Government’s invitation to name members to the committee unless the administration accedes to the Caribbean Court of Justice as part of the overall reforms.

“I really do not know how else to say that there is now no consensus to accede to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ,” Malahoo Forte declared.

In a statement to Parliament, Malahoo Forte indicated that the requests being made by the Opposition could not be accommodated at this time.

“We are not yet at the stages where we can provide the details sought by the opposition leader, but we will get there, and when we do, we will make full disclosure and we will invite input. Until then, I have indicated broadly what the proposals will include,” she said.

But Golding said that the Government was not being transparent on its plans to amend the Charter of Rights.

“They very well know, but they don’t want to share it with us; they don’t want to disclose it to the Jamaican public,” he said.

Golding is also insisting that the minister divulge, in advance, which deeply entrenched provisions the Government intends to change and why.

“I think our request is reasonable, I think it is responsible. I accept that in the course of the deliberations of the committee, things may change. The input of experts may impact where it ends up, but at the outset, I want to know where the Government wants to go,” he said.

“It is almost as if they are saying we must close our eyes and follow them.”

Golding said he wrote to Malahoo Forte on January 24 and has not yet received a reply to his queries.

However, the minister insisted that the information requested by Golding was not available at this stage.