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Cabinet has approved a programme of action that will allow for the reform of the Jamaican Constitution shortly after the next general election.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator A.J. Nicholson announced on Friday (January 19) in the Senate, that a Resolution would be brought to Parliament recommending that “immediately following the next general election, legislation should be prepared effecting changes in our constitutional system”.
Amongst the recommended changes to the Constitution is the establishment of a Republic form of Government in Jamaica.
“We should no longer have as our Head of State the hereditary monarch of the United Kingdom, but that we should become a Republic, with our own indigenous President as Head of State,” said the Minister.
He explained that the Head of State would not be elected directly by the people but “should be chosen by a process that will enable the person selected to be a symbol of national unity, and who would not exercise executive or legislative powers, but would be vested with the responsibility to make certain sensitive appointments that are required to be made without partisan bias or influence”.
The Senator added that other changes in the Constitution would include the new Charter of Rights, which would, in form and content, “reflect the development in international thinking and practice that has taken place since our present Bill of Rights was fashioned in 1962”.
“A new Constitution should come into being by an Act of the Jamaican legislature, enacted by the process appropriate to amending the deeply entrenched clauses of our present Constitution,” said Mr. Nicholson.”The new constitutional provisions will therefore receive the express stamp of approval, not only from all the parliamentary representatives of the people, but of the electorate itself in a referendum,” he added.
Senator Nicholson noted, however, that before the final constitution document could be prepared, there were certain fundamental issues that needed to be settled, such as the “precise method of selecting a President”.
“Cabinet has therefore directed that there should be the production of a ‘green paper’ outlining the elements of the new Constitution that have already been agreed and containing a suggested strategy for resolving those few important matters that are still not fully settled,” informed the Minister.
A Commission was established 1992 under the Chairmanship of the late Justice James Kerr, and subsequently Dr. Lloyd Barnett, to consider proposals for constitutional reform and to make recommendations for Parliament’s consideration. The Commission submitted its final report in February 1994.
This report included a wide range of suggested changes that would, in effect, create a new Constitution.