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CRC proposal on NACE does not make sense

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Nov.24.06

EDITOR: I recently started considering the contents of the Revised Final Report of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), submitted to the House of Assembly in September. I find some of the propositions unnecessary, the justifications expose ignorance, they’re lame and insulting to my God-given intelligence. I write so Vincentians could see because we must not be taken for granted.

On page 24, the CRC proposes a National Advisory Council of Elders (NACE) saying, “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”. This claim implies that NACE would have legislative power.{{more}} After all, a Senate is composed of senators who participate in the legislative process. The commissioners acknowledged that “supporters of a senate argue that an upper House can provide a forum for the refinement of hastily drafted or ill-considered legislation”. Yet, the same commissioners declare: “There should be a deliberative, non-legislative body called the National Advisory Council of Elders (NACE) of no fewer than fifteen members.”

Now, how in heaven’s name could a non-legislative body like NACE effectively answer those who advocate the setting up of a Senate. I mean, who in God’s earth are these people talking to? Fools?

So why have NACE? NACE. It will consist of former heads of government, former judges of the high court, former commissioners of police, former members of parliament etc. As for their functions, essentially NACE will advise, make recommendations, advise, make recommendations blah blah blah. If you ask me Editor, NACE will be like a dog with no teeth and an expensive one to maintain too with at least 15 members and all.

The Commissioners’ rational for NACE is that there is no public institution providing a “forum through which the collective wisdom and life experiences of mentally alert retirees can continue to be placed at the service of the state.” Later, the same commissioners recommend a minimum age of 30 years for membership in NACE. They say it’s to avoid excluding relatively young persons with worthwhile contributions. Then they say that the term “Elders” is not “age-related” but refers to “maturity of judgment”. Well, if “Elders” mean “mature persons”, then why justify the need for NACE by speaking of the need for “mentally alert retirees” who could give wisdom and life experience in service?

Is the real reason for NACE linked to persons trying to secure financial benefits after retirement age? And Editor, how many 30-year-olds you know who are former heads of state, former heads of government, and former senior ‘dis and dat’ etc? It’s clear that the majority of persons proposed for membership on NACE are not within the 30-35 year range. So what was the talk about “Elder” meaning “mature”? Maybe it was just an explanation given to quiet those who insisted in seeing more youthful representation on the council. I have no confidence that this would be the case since the main reason for its creation is to employee retirees.

Do we need 15 retirees to advise and recommend in the areas highlighted in the report? Is this a worthy cost to bear?

Anesia O. Richards

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