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A closer look at the Constitution – Part 7


The discussion on the constitution has become far too political and it is not sufficient for persons to give their views on the proposed constitution, but it is now commonplace to tell people how to vote, so much so that one political party is telling persons to vote yes and the other is telling them to vote no. There is no doubt that the issue has polarized the nation.{{more}} The consultation started out in a spirit of bipartisanship but the unity has dissipated and the two parties are pitted against each other. Political electioneering and rumors have become the order of the day. Suspicion has marred the process. It might have been more helpful if the real politicians had taken a backseat and allowed civil society to deal with it. We have a duty to educate and provide information for the enlightenment of the nation about a document as important as a constitution.

Last week we looked at the role of the Senator who would be part of the National Assembly. The proposed constitution provides for ten senators and these will be allocated according to the percentage amount of votes polled by the parties. This week we will look at some other aspects for your enlightenment.

Reporting system

The proposed constitution provides for a reporting system. The elected representatives who have assumed the role as caretaker of the constituency must report to the National Assembly. Section 87 states:

“Every representative shall meet formally with his constituents in relation to his representation of his constituency, not less than once every six months, and within that same period in relation to such representation, he shall submit a report in writing in the National assembly on behalf of his constituents.”

The standing order would require an oral presentation and for the National Assembly to adopt the report. It would also require the Speaker to inform the Assembly of any default by any Representative in discharging his obligation. Hence an elected representative cannot, after his election, take a comfortable seat and decide to ignore his constituency. His stewardship would be in the face of the nation.

Cooperation for better Government

Section 89 is a curious little section it constitutes Part 6 of the Constitution. It simply states that “nothing in the constitution shall be construed as either prohibiting, or inhibiting the reaching of consensus in the National Assembly and the fostering of cooperation between the Government and those who do not support the Government. It would be interesting to see this in operation.

Educate the People

The debate is now widening, the public discourse is gathering strength and information appears to be circulating. Almost all the columnists in the weekend news papers are getting into the act. Obviously this rare occurrence came after the constitution was made available to the ordinary man via the newspaper. The statement that the populace had enough time through consultation etc. for six years cannot be fair. Many persons are now seeing the constitution in a tangible form and a constitution is not a fly by night document, it is an important document that would affect our lives and that of generation to come. It is written in technical legal language and it takes a while for the ordinary man to digest. We need to continue to educate the populace without the political malice.

I will look at the issue of life tenure for magistrates next week, among others.

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