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Eustace urged to rejoin Constitutional Reform talks

Eustace urged to rejoin Constitutional Reform talks


With all that is within him, Queen’s Counsel Parnel Campbell will fight to ensure that the new constitution gets the two-thirds majority needed for it to become law in St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

“I will leave no stone unturned to make sure that the people understand the issue.”

Describing the decision by the New Democratic Party (NDP) to first abandon and now encourage a vote against the new constitution in the upcoming referendum as unreasonable, Campbell said that constitutional issues are too important to “be held hostage to the fortunes of party political disturbances.”

Campbell, a former long serving chairman of the NDP, who once served as Deputy Prime Minister in the former Sir James Mitchell led NDP administration, shared his views on K45’s programme, Prime Time, which aired on March 19 and 26.

Campbell was responding to the decision made by Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace to continue his boycott of the process, and now, to encourage voters to say no in the referendum scheduled for November this year.

“This is not a tenable position for a responsible political party to take,” said Campbell, who boasts of still being a card carrying member of the NDP.

Eustace, who originally withdrew his party from the process in July 2008 because of four matters of governance coming out of the 2005 general elections, has now identified two issues with the proposed constitution that he has problems with.

The four issues previously raised, including the removal of Rodney Adams from the post of Supervisor of Elections and the removal of a Unity Labour Party(ULP) election billboard at Sion Hill, have all since been addressed.

Eustace has since listed the absence of term limits for the Prime Minister and the proposed increase in the number of constituencies in the new constitution as two of the reasons why he cannot support it.

Both Campbell, who served as Chairman of the now dissolved Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and who is the current Chairman of the Constitutional Review Steering Committee (CRSC), and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves have challenged Eustace’s argument.

Dr Gonsalves, at a press conference last Monday, March 23, said that the two grounds don’t make sense because in the current constitution, constituencies can be increased and there is no term limit for Prime Ministers.

Campbell for his part said that he does not understand the Opposition’s stance on term limits, suggesting that it could be conceived as the Opposition saying that they cannot beat the incumbent Prime Minister.

“You simply tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if he (Prime Minister Dr Gonsalves) is going to run forever, we are going to defeat him next time,” Campbell said.

As he again urged Eustace to reconsider his position, Dr Gonsalves highlighted that there are 18 points of agreement between the Opposition and Government in the final report which is going to be used to furnish the work of the legal drafting committee headed by prominent Grenadian attorney Dr Francis Alexis QC and which includes Campbell and Dr Hamid Ghanny of Trinidad and Tobago.

Among these points of agreement are: the replacing of the monarchy with a non-executive president as head of state; the adoption of proportional representation; the establishment of an independent electoral and boundaries commission; the establishment of an integrity commission; the strengthening of the judiciary, including the regionalization of the magistracy and the replacing of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final appellate court; changing the name of the House of Representatives to the National Assembly; restricting the Cabinet size to no more than 12 members of the National Assembly and the curtailment of the powers of the Prime Minister in some respects.

“We have followed what is seen throughout the Caribbean as the most thorough, open, transparent democratic process,” Dr Gonsalves stressed, saying that despite Eustace’s stance, he is confident he will get the two thirds majority of the votes cast to pass the new constitution.

He suggested that because the process was done through consultation with the people, even people who do not support his government will vote in favour of the new constitution.

His campaign will have a formidable ally.

“I want to promise the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines that the campaign for the referendum will be regarded by me as my crowning challenge,” said Campbell on K45’s Prime Time.