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Opposition Leader not moving from ‘no’ stance

Opposition Leader not moving from ‘no’ stance


St. Vincent’s new draft constitution is nothing more than “cosmetic”, says Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, and his New Democratic Party will continue to oppose it.{{more}}

Eustace restated his party’s “no” stance on Tuesday during debate on the second reading of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Constitution Bill 2009 in the House of Assembly.

“There are a number of areas in this constitution that are merely cosmetic because they are applications that amount to the same thing,” he said. “Let’s deal with practicality, not deal with theory. I am here to deal with how this thing is applied.”

Responding to the presentation of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who led the debate, Eustace highlighted a number of issues about which he said that his party had “key concerns”.

These concerns, he explained, were serious enough to force his party to encourage Vincentians not to vote for the draft constitution when it reaches the referendum stage, for which no date has yet been set.

The NDP concerns identified by the Opposition Leader included the election of a president, which his party believes should be done by the general public and not the National Assembly — the proposed new name of the House of Assembly.

Eustace told the country his party also had serious concerns about the supposed reduced responsibilities of the Prime Minister and what is being described as increased powers of the Opposition Leader, who will be called Minority Leader if the draft is approved. He insisted that decisions would still be made and influenced by the Prime Minister, regardless to his new role in parliament.

“There is no difference,” he added. “It only sounds nice on paper. The proposals that are being made make no difference on prime ministerial power. In terms of a practical solution, it does nothing to remove or reduce prime ministerial power. All it does is take a few days longer.”

Among the other areas of concern listed by the Opposition Leader were the proposed composition of Parliament and the preamble to the new constitution.

Eustace responded to the charge that if Vincentians rejected the draft they would be dismissing proposals considered favorable by him and his party, noting that positive recommendations such as the establishment of an Integrity Commission could be enacted otherwise.

“We are not turning down the inspired goals,” Eustace said. We are saying this document has not done justice and has not realised these noble goals. In saying ‘No!’ we are saying come again.

“The Prime Minister says if anybody votes ‘no’ they are living in a different world. Well I going to vote ‘no’ on this constitution.