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Review of the Constitution

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Part 1

Though not a unanimous decision among Vincentians at home and abroad, the Constitutional Review Commission has recommended that the British Monarch be terminated as Head of State of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The commission said that during consultations in the United Kingdom people were “evenly divided” on the retention of the British Monarch as head of state while elsewhere, the majority of people wanted a change.{{more}}

“Those Vincentians in the UK, and the few voices elsewhere, who have spoken in favour of the retention of the British Head of State, have expressed the fear that St Vincent and the Grenadines could become defenceless and could lose important financial benefits if we should remove from under the British Crown. Additionally, they argue that republican status could expose us to dictatorship. This latter fear is a reflection of the negative images which the word ‘Republic’ connotes. It is noteworthy that few persons have given any positive reasons for maintaining the status quo: only fears and doubts have been raised,” the report stated.

It continued that: “One additional fear is that republican status would necessitate a change of currency, which, it is said, would be to our detriment. The Commonwealth of Dominica is proof that an OECS State could become a republic and still share the Eastern Caribbean Currency. That fear is unfounded.”

Responsibilities

The commission has recommended the creation of the post of President as the new Head of State along with a Vice President. Both would be elected by the National Assembly from among a list of persons recommended by the National Advisory Council of Elders (NACE). NACE is a new body proposed by the commission.

In addition to being required to deputize for the President when unavailable, the Vice-President should be given responsibility to attend meetings of NACE except during discussions on matters pertaining to: the vetting of persons for the offices of President and Vice-President; the discharge by NACE of the functions of the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy; the selection of persons for the offices of: Chairpersons of the Service Commissions; members of the Public Service Board of Appeal; the Chairperson of the Constituency Boundaries Commission; and the Supervisor of Elections.

He would also be responsible for overseeing and coordinating the administrative processes for the selection of Vincentians in the Diaspora at the Civil Society Delegates’ Convention, at which the Civil Society Senators are elected to the National Assembly.

The Vice-President would also sit by invitation on such Select or Standing Committees of the National Assembly as the National Assembly may determine from time to time.

There is no limit on how long the President and Vice-President may hold office but there is a mandatory retirement age of 75.

Qualifications

Persons entitled to hold the posts are citizens by birth or descent age 35 or older and who were resident in St Vincent and the Grenadines for at least five years before being elected to the post.

There are nine conditions under which a person may not be eligible to be elected President of Vice-President. These are: a Supreme Court judge or an acting judge; a member of Parliament within the last 10 years prior to election as President or Vice-President; an elected or honorary officer in any political party or organisation within ten years of the date of his election as President or Vice-President; a person convicted either in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines or elsewhere of any act of dishonesty or disloyalty to the State of St Vincent and the Grenadines; someone who is bankrupt; someone who is mentally ill; a person who is under sentence of death imposed on him/her by a court of law in any member State of the United Nations; a person who is serving or has served more than 12 months in prison by any United Nations member country; someone holding or acting in any public office as may be specified by Parliament; and subject to such exceptions and limitations as may be prescribed by Parliament, someone who has any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed.

• Next week the proposal for the creation of the National Advisory Council of Elders (NACE).

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