The Purpose Of A Constitution Review Body

Sir Lawrence A Joseph

By Dr Lawrence A Joseph

Since Grenada’s Independence on 7 February 1974, forty years ago, four review bodies have been established to review the Grenada Constitution and to make recommendations.

The first one was established by the Herbert Blaize administration as a Commission in February 1985 just a little over one year following the tumultuous period of October 1983. This Commission was chaired by one Sir Fred Phillips with the other members being, Professor Ralph Carnegie, Brynmor Pollard, John Renwick and A Michael Andrew. Professor Randolph Mc Intosh was subsequently made an Associate member. One Bernard Gibbs was the secretary.

The second body was established by the Keith Mitchell administration also as a Commission in February 2002 originally chaired by Dr the Hon. Nicholas Liverpool. Following the chairman’s resignation in October 2003, the Hon Mr Justice Lyle St Paul became the Chairman. Other members were Carol Bristol, Meryl Forsythe, Fr Gerard Paul, and Basil Harford. The secretary was James Andrews. Professor Randolph Mc Intosh was Deputy Chairman of this Commission for a few months until his resignation in December 2002.

The third body was established by the Tillman Thomas administration in the year 2010. This body was an individual in the person of Professor Randolph Mc Intosh who seemed to have had an agreement with the Tillman Thomas administration to undertake a rewriting of the Grenada Constitution after holding consultations.

The fourth body is the present one which was established as a Committee and was launched on 16 January 2014. This Committee comprises some fourteen members representing various organisations such as the Trade Union Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Democratic Congress, the New National Party, Grenada Bar Association, religious and other non-governmental organisations. Dr Francis Alexis is the Chairman of the Committee whilst Robert Branch from the Ministry of Legal Affairs is the point person.

It is to be observed that the first two bodies were Review Commissions; the third was an ‘an authorised individual’ and the fourth is a Review Committee. A Review Commission is a more powerful body than either an authorised individual or a review committee and is usually established “for the public welfare” under section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiries Act with special powers to call witnesses, demand the production of documents and to be exempted from liability from any law suit for matters done in connection with his or her duties as commissioner. Neither an authorised individual nor a committee has such powers.

All the above mentioned bodies were review bodies. They were set up for the purpose of reviewing the constitution of Grenada, holding consultations and making recommendations to government. The Fred Phillips Commission submitted its report on 5 February 1985 and the Lyle St Paul Commission submitted its report on 30 April 2006. None of their recommendations have as yet been implemented. Because of the untimely passing of Professor Mc Intosh no formal report on his findings were submitted to government. The Alexis Committee submitted its report to government on 9 July 2014 when twelve recommendations were made. The government has accepted those recommendations in principle.

As may be gleaned from the above, the main purpose of a constitution review body is to review the constitution, analyse the views of the populace and then make appropriate recommendations to government. It is always entirely up to the incumbent government to make a determination as to whether to fully accept, accept with reservations, or not accept the recommendations coming from the review body.

It must be borne in mind that following a review of a constitution a review body may determine that the constitution should either be left untouched as it is quite effective and efficient, or that certain amendments should be made to it for the purpose of  undertaking a tidying up or that it should be reformed completely. ‘Effective’ here refers to the fact that the constitution meets its intended objectives and that those intended objectives are sufficient. ‘Efficient’ refers to the fact that the intended objectives are being met smoothly and with minimum effort.

Despite the recommendations which have been made by the present Alexis Committee to government, it has been acknowledged that constitution review ought to be an ongoing process. Therefore the time may soon come when a comprehensive reform of the Grenada constitution would be contemplated.

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