JIS News

Opposition MP for East Central St. Andrew, Dr. Peter Phillips, says that the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, now being debated in the House of Representatives, represents only “a way station” on the road of Constitutional reform.
“It is not the final destination,” Dr. Phillips noted, as he made his contribution to the debate on Tuesday (October 27).
He listed among the issues left unsettled: the appointment of a President; the process by which presidential appointments to constitutional offices are confirmed by Parliament; the method of appointing two Senate seats not appointed by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition; and the method of appointing members of the Public Service Commission.
He also raised the issues of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and dual citizenship, as areas that need to be looked at as a part of the process.
“None of these should prove so contentious as to defy resolution, if the members of this Parliament were determined to find effective solutions. We need to complete the constitutional reform process,” Dr. Phillips said.
Dr. Phillips also noted that the Charter Bill is the first fruit of a process of constitutional reform, which started 32 years ago.
“This Charter of Rights sets out a new constitutional doctrine in many respects. Specifically, it places sovereignty, clearly and unequivocally, with the people rather than Parliament,” he said.
“It also effectively circumscribes the exercise of powers by Parliament, and by agencies of the State, in that they may pass no law and may not undertake any action, not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” he explained.
He said that this represents a fundamental shift in the Constitutional doctrine that operated previously, when sovereignty rested with Parliament, which could pass any law or do anything, not explicitly prevented by the Constitution.
The Opposition MP also noted that the Bill extends the range of rights which Jamaicans can claim, beyond that contained in the present Constitution. Some of which include: the right to free education; the right to fair humane and equal treatment from any public authority; the right to a passport; and the right to a healthy environment.
The Charter Bill, which is now before Parliament, provides for the protection of the rights and freedoms of Jamaicans, subject to such measures as are required for state governance in periods of public disaster or emergency, or as are regarded as demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. It will replace chapter three of the Jamaican Constitution.

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