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PM says he’s ready to share some powers

PM says he’s ready to share some powers

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The referendum can be called off and snap General Elections called in its stead.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told the nation on Sunday he presently has the authority to do this.{{more}}

These comments, which illustrate the enormous power that a Prime Minister wields, were made during Gonsalves’ keynote address before a moderate crowd gathered at the Victoria Park in Kingstown for the official launch of the Yes Vote campaign for the proposed 2009 Constitution.

Gonsalves spoke of the opportunities the new constitution affords in curtailing the powers of the prime minister. He said changing the current political climate is as simple as making a request to the Governor-General to dissolve parliament.

“And within 28 days, we having elections, not Referendum anymore. We having elections, catch them with their pants down. I got the power to do that you know,” said Gonsalves.

Under the proposed constitution, the prime minister will no longer have the authority to set the General Elections date at his discretion.

This will be the responsibility of an independent Electoral Boundaries Commission, which will operate within the ambit of the proposed new constitution.

A government’s term under the proposed constitution will last for a period of four years and nine months after the first sitting of Parliament. Hence, political parties and the electorate will have a better idea as to when general elections will be called.

Gonsalves also used last Sunday’s launch to clarify several misconceptions about the constitution.

He said that it is being said by some that if the proposed constitution is passed, there will never be General Elections again. The prime minister sought to clarify this myth by reminding the nation that the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission will have responsibility for executing General Elections.

He also addressed the issue of individual rights and freedoms which he said will be extended by effectively restoring the death penalty.

The prime minister told the gathering that during the past year, persons have been complaining about excesses by police. He explained the new constitution presents an opportunity to have such cases dealt with by an independent body called the Human Rights Commission.

But paramount among the issues he dealt with was a call for national unity among Vincentians.

He appealed to the nation via a live broadcast to have a healing for the love of country.

“The healing process should help to strengthen us and uplift us. That is why as we go about this campaign we must not curse anyone. We must not insult anyone. We must not trace anyone. For love of country, we heal and we vote yes,” said Gonsalves.

Gonsalves also noted that the proposed constitution provides an opportunity to foster voter equity in the distribution of power. He said people who support the Opposition will still be adequately represented and there will be checks and balances on the government.

“There is no country in the world in a parliamentary system that the leader of the Opposition and the Public Accounts Committee will have the kind of power that we are giving to the Opposition in St.Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Gonsalves, while questioning, “And still they don’t want it?”

An address was also made by Sir Louis Straker, who mainly dealt with the issue of dual citizenship, among other issues. Sir Louis reminded persons that the constitution is for everyone, including supporters of the Unity Labour Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Green Party.

“We are building a constitution that includes everybody,” said Sir Louis.

Sir Louis stated that ministers of religion will have the opportunity under the new constitution to participate in representational politics, a privilege not afforded under the current constitution.

He said the critics claim the new constitution is cosmetic, but he strongly believes it affords transparency, openness and good governance.

Information Communications Technologist Sehon Marshall made his first presentation on a political platform, but time ran out and René Baptiste, Minister of Electoral Matters was unable to deliver her speech as she had intended to.

As the programme concluded, it was announced that during the campaign leading up to the November 25th Referendum, the Yes Vote Campaign will be using the national bird as its mascot.

Entertainment was provided by Grantley ‘Ipa’ Constance, Jamesy P, Danielle Veira, and Shaunelle Nanton. (HN)

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