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A closer look at the Constitution- Part 5


Capital punishment (the death penalty) is still on our statute books, but it has not been imposed recently. In my last article I pointed to the recent Privy Council decision in the Daniel Dick Trimmingham case where the victim was beheaded. Their Lordships decided it was not the “worst of the worst”.{{more}} In making this conclusion, their Lordships pointed out that the murder was not planned or premeditated and there was no humiliation of the victim. From the comments that were made when the decision was released, we know that many Vincentians were shocked and would like to have seen the death penalty imposed. As our present situation indicates, the Court would have to decide whether the actions of the person who kills amounts to the “worst of the worst”.


This week we look at a major institution which the constitution requires. This is the lawmaking arm of government. The constitution retains the unicameral system, that is, a one house parliament, but the institution will be renamed. Instead of the House of Assembly, there will be a National Assembly which will be composed of elected members (representatives) and senators. There will be seventeen representatives chosen in a general election and ten senators chosen by the parties. So far there has been heated argument about the number of persons required under the proposed constitution. The Chairman has given a list of the islands in the Caribbean alongside the population and the number of persons in their National Assembly. It appears to be a fair comparison, but there appears to be some opposition to the costs it would incur for our country.


There are qualifications criteria which the persons would have to meet so as to be eligible for nomination. The nominee must be a citizen of a CARICOM or an OECS member state of the Commonwealth; he or she must be eighteen years or upwards; must be domiciled and resident in SVG at the date of his nomination for election and must be able to speak the English language with some degree of proficiency.


A person may be disqualified if he gives allegiance or obedience to a foreign power, if he of she holds or is acting in the position of president or he was in that position for not less than five years, if he holds or is acting in the office of a judge; if he is in any public office (subject to any exception or limitation prescribed by Parliament); if he is an undischarged bankrupt having been so declared under the law; if he is under sentence of death imposed by a court of law. If so provided by Parliament a person may not be eligible to the post of representative or senator if that person had the conduct of “compiling any register for votes for the purpose of electing representatives or senators.” If a person is convicted with a crime associated with the election of representatives or senators and if the matter is reported by the court trying an election petition that person would not be eligible for five years for any such position.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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