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The President should be elected by the people

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28.AUG.09

Editor: “The people are the true political sovereign of the State; power belongs to the people. Therefore, the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government. The people exercise their sovereignty by the process of democracy through their Representatives in the National Assembly, and through such other democratic organs as may be established by or under this Constitution.”{{more}}

This is my last letter in this series, and I wish to revisit a few points. The above is taken from Section 5(1) at the beginning of Chapter 2.

The Constitution properly recognises the sovereignty of the people, and the authors clearly seek to promote democracy. However, the way to do it is not by constraints upon how the people exercise sovereignty, but by constraints upon the leaders they appoint/elect and upon organs of the state. If you have an educated population and good governance, then people will tend to behave civilly towards one another, mindful of the rights of others. The problem is always leaders who want either to hold on to power when they should be letting go, or undermining democratic intent by seeking to enlarge their power beyond what was originally intended. In this context, the sovereignty of the people should not be constrained by “processes of democracy through Representatives”. On the contrary, the people should be in open rebellion against such leaders. When leaders subvert democracy and use the armed forces to enforce their will, there is no democratic process available to remove them – only sovereign will.

I have not directly commented on the roles of Prime Minister and Minority Leader. In my view, the true leader of the House of Assembly is the Speaker who must be impartial as between all parliamentarians. The President and a Vice President should be elected directly by the people. If there are only two Parties involved, then most likely, the House leader of one will be the Majority Leader, and the House leader of the other the Minority Leader. There is no need for a PM. The House will conduct its own affairs and needs no guiding hand from any external agency such as a President declaring who is who with the power to appoint and remove. House rules and not the President should determine when to prorogue or dissolve parliament. On the other hand, the House should have the power to impeach the President, forcing his resignation or dismissal.

I am not in favour of nominated members in the House. All the people who legislate on behalf of the people should be elected by them. If you want an expanded House, then have more constituencies. The distance from the north of SVG to our border with Grenada makes us larger than the land extent of Dominica, and they, with a smaller population, have more MPs. On the other hand, as I said before, the Executive should comprise the President and persons appointed by him, subject to their confirmation by the House, who will assist him in that function. There will be no Ministers in the House. There will instead be powerful committees who must consider all proposals coming from the Executive and either rejecting them, or passing them with or without amendments.

There is a lot more I could comment on, but, with only weeks until the proposed referendum, I believe I have offered more suggestions than they can accommodate given their time constraints. It’s a pity, though. It leaves us with a Constitution which some successor government will have to overhaul once again, because I have no doubt that whatever is proposed will be approved.

Cedric B Harold
cbharold@cwjamaica.com

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