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Constitutional Review recommendations – NACE – Part 2

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As a compromise to those who advocate for the establishment of an Upper House of Parliament or a Senate, the Constitutional Review Commission has recommended the establishment of a National Advisory Council of Elders (NACE).

“We believe that NACE is an effective answer to those who advocate the setting up of an Upper House of Parliament, that is, a Senate,” the Commissioners reported in their September 28, 2006 report.{{more}}

“In a sense, NACE should be the conscience of the nation, providing stability, continuity and guidance on the critical issues of the day: a truly innovative institution which would allow the nation to benefit from the collective wisdom and experience of those men and women who would have given national service at various levels and in various institutions,” added.

They recommended no less than 15 members, some of whom would be selected by the National Assembly while others would have the right to serve. The Councillors, as they would be also called, would have three basic qualifications and two types of responsibilities.

MEMBERSHIP

The members having the right to serve would be former Heads of State of SVG, former Heads of Government of SVG, and the Chairperson of the Integrity Commission.

Those eligible for selection by the National Assembly are: (a) former High Court Judges, former Appellate Justices, former Senior Judicial and Law Enforcement Officers such as Attorneys General, Directors of Public Prosecutions, Registrars, Chief and Senior Magistrates, Commissioners of Police, Superintendents of Prisons; (b) Former Ambassadors and High Commissioners; (c) Former Members of Parliament; (d) Civil Society Leaders; (e) Religious Leaders ; and (f) Other citizens.

NACE would have a Chairperson, a Deputy Chairperson, and such other officers as may be determined initially by the National Assembly and afterwards by NACE itself.

QUALIFICATION

There are three basic qualifications for both categories of membership. Firstly, the individuals must be ordinarily resident in St Vincent and the Grenadines; secondly, they must be 30 years or older while service after 75 years would depend on physical and mental fitness; and thirdly, the members of NACE would be expected to reflect their own independent judgment and their own individual opinions and not necessarily those of any institutions or organizations with which those persons had been or may be currently associated.

RESPONSIBILITIES

NACE would have specific and general responsibilities.

The specific responsibilities recommended are:

(a) The vetting of persons for the position of President and Vice-President of the Republic so as to provide a shortlist of names for election by the National Assembly;

(b) The discharge of the responsibilities presently exercised by the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy (the Mercy Committee);

(c) Making recommendations to the National Assembly on the selection of persons to hold the positions of Chairpersons of the Service Commissions and of the Public Service Board of Appeal; and,

(d) Advising the President on the selection of the Chairperson of the Constituency Boundaries Commission and of the Supervisor of Elections.

Generally, NACE is expected to make recommendations on matters of State referred to it by: the Head of State; the National Assembly; the Prime Minister; the Minority Leader; and the Ombudsman.

The Committee also recommened that NACE should have the right, in its absolute discretion, to decline to advise on any matter referred to it.

PROCEEDINGS

While the internal proceedings should be strictly confidential, the Committee has recommended that the decisions should be made public together with “so much of its reasoning as NACE may deem appropriate to publicise”.

They also recommended that NACE be accorded the same level of privilege that Parliament enjoys.

In addition, NACE should be a totally independent, non-partisan forum, adequately funded by public funds, adequately and comfortably housed in office space under its control, and adequately staffed by public officers.

The accounts of NACE should be audited by the Director of Audit and it should be accountable to the National Assembly for funds spent. The Commissioners recommended that NACE should not accept private funding, but external funding from international funding agencies may in special circumstances be accepted with the approval of the National Assembly.

It as also recommended that NACE proceedings should enjoy the same privileges as Parliamentary privilege.

There were also recommendations that provisions should be made for the removal from office of any member of NACE. Such provisions should involve the appointment of a special tribunal to investigate and report on any question of removal from office.

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