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A closer look at the Constitution- Part 11

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Another copy of the draft constitution was provided in last weekend’s newspapers. For those of you who did not get a copy you can go to www.gov.vc. This is the amended version and it includes some of the amendments that you asked for and correction of clerical errors.{{more}}

Amendments

As I indicated in an earlier article, the first part of the Constitutional Bill deals with the transferring of rights, liabilities and obligations under the existing to the new constitution. Chapter 2, the Guiding Principles of State Policy, as we mentioned before, is an innovation. Most laws written today include some guiding principles which declare some underlying beliefs on which the law rests. These principles provide a sound foundation to bind our constitution, and as expected, this section carries a few amendments. There are 20 sections with addition of words here and there. Section 6 now states that we have “the right to active participation in political parties” and the word “marriage” is added to family in section 17. For section 22, two former sections are now made one in that equality for children born out of wedlock is now added to protection for children. Section 23 is brand new and it declares our adherence to regionalism and international law. We will now continue from where we left off two weeks ago.

The President

The draft constitution diverges from the existing constitution with the replacement of our Governor General with a President as our head of state. Our Governor General represents the Queen of England, but a President would represent the state and its people in its new form as a republic. Improvement you will say because this means that we will part with our colonial past.

The mode in which our head of state will be chosen is significantly different. Whereas the holder of the position was chosen by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the President would be elected by the National Assembly in pursuant of section 50 of Chapter v of the Constitution. The National Assembly would be our replacement for the House of Assembly.

Who can be President?

A person who is thirty-five years and above, is a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is domiciled and ordinarily resident in SVG for five years immediately before nomination day could be eligible for the position of president. The five years residence immediately before nomination will not be required for persons who serve in offices outside SVG on behalf of the state and in regional an international institutions in which SVG is a member.

Disqualification

The disqualification criteria for a person who seeks to be nominated or elected to the presidency are similar to those for members of the National Assembly and are given under section 69. Accordingly, any person who has allegiance to a foreign country, is acting as a judge in the Supreme Court, is an undischarged bankrupt under the law, is certified to be insane or adjudged to be of unsound mind under the law, is under sentence of death imposed by a court of law in any part of the Commonwealth or is serving a sentence of twelve months or more imprisonment, among others, is disqualified.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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