JIS News

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller emphasized today (May 9), that there was no major obstacle to arriving at an agreement for constitutional reform.
“For my part, there is now no major obstacle standing in the way of the agreement necessary to change the Constitution to a republican form of Parliamentary government,” Mrs. Simpson Miller told the House, while making her contribution in the 2006/07 Budget Debate.
The Prime Minister pointed out that there were three main elements that have been on the agenda since the establishment in 1992 of the Constitutional Reform Commission, headed by the late Mr. Justice James Kerr. These elements are:
. The establishment of Jamaica as a republic within the Commonwealth.
. The substitution of a regional Court as the country’s final court of appeal, in place of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which will sit in Jamaica to hear appeals from the Jamaican Court of Appeal.
. The recasting of the country’s Charter of Rights in the Constitution, so as to bring its provisions more in line with international developments in respect of human rights and enable the island to respond effectively in this critical area of national life.
“The President, who would be selected in such a way as to make the office a symbol of national unity, would have the responsibility of making certain sensitive appointments which should not appear to be in any way partisan,” the Prime Minister said.
“Concerning the substitution of the Caribbean Court of Justice for the Privy Council, we recall that such an idea was first introduced to Jamaica some 36 years ago by the then Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer. A number of hurdles have been placed in the way over these many years. Discussions between the Attorney General and the Parliamentary Opposition members, who speak on legal affairs in this House and the Senate, have now arrived at a point where a formula acceptable to both sides could be reached,” she added.
With respect to the third element of constitutional reform, the Prime Minister said the revised Charter of Rights has been the subject of the most careful and pains-taking discussions over several years, adding that the Report of a Select Committee of Parliament is expected to be presented to the House and the Senate before the Independence celebrations this year.