by Dr Lawrence Joseph
When the process for reviewing the Grenada Constitution started on 16 January 2014, over one year ago, it was envisaged by some that only minor constitutional amendments would be proposed. However, following widespread consultations, the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee headed by constitutional expert Dr Francis Alexis, QC, proposed very fundamental and highly significant changes which changes were accepted in principle by the Grenada cabinet. Once these are approved by the requisite majorities in both Houses of Parliament, and approved by a two-thirds majority support in a referendum, Grenadians would have the opportunity for the first time in over forty years to have a brand new constitution.
In this regard, a most significant bill is being given consideration by the Alexis Committee. It is tentatively entitled: “Constitution of Grenada (Restructuring) (Amendment) bill, 2015”. This bill proposes that after certain amendments are approved in accordance with the referendum, the Attorney General would be entitled to reposition and renumber certain chapters and sections of the constitution for the purpose of having a proper sequence to its structure.
For example, if approval is given to changing the name of the state to Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, it may be more appropriate to have this as the first section of the constitution. This may be followed by a section on citizenship or by a section on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms as the case may be. Additionally, certain sections which have been referenced within the body of the constitution itself or in any of the schedules may have changed. The Attorney-General would also be entitled to give consideration to having those referenced sections renumbered.
Following this “mopping up” exercise by the Attorney-General, the restructured version of the constitution must then be submitted to both the House of Representatives and the Senate for final endorsement. This must be done by way of affirmative resolution with a simple majority support from each House. This process is to ensure that only the substantive amendments which have been approved by referendum go towards the constitutional restructuring. This bill therefore will provide an opportunity for Grenadians to really obtain a brand new constitution.
This restructuring process will certainly save readers of the newly approved constitution of Grenada from the confusion of reading amended sections with numbers and letters attached for the purpose of fitting into the existing constitutional structure. This confusing state of affairs exists in many countries following the reform of their various constitutions. This situation is being avoided in Grenada.
The amendments which have been approved in principle for going forward touch upon several issues which include changing the name of the state from being just “Grenada” to “Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”; having more in-depth fundamental rights and freedoms entrenched; establishing directive principles of state policy which include provisions for the protection of the environment, the state’s resources and for promoting gender equality; having an electoral college comprising all members of parliament elect a Governor-General; having an elections and boundaries commission comprising members of the main political parties to supervise the electoral process instead of a single supervisor of elections; having a provision to limit the term of a Prime Minister to three consecutive terms; ensuring that there is a Leader of the Opposition at all times despite the fact that one party may win all the seats in a general election; and having the Caribbean Court of Justice be the final court of appeal for Grenada instead of the Privy Council.
The present highly diversified Constitution Reform Advisory Committee must be highly complimented for the seriousness with which it is taking its responsibility. This present committee has held consultations involving more people than the total of all the other three constitution review bodies put together. The committee is continuing the work which was started by three previously appointed constitution review bodies in 1985 under the chairmanship of Sir Fred Phillips, in 2006 under the respective chairmanships of then Mr Nicholas Liverpool and Mr Justice Lyle St Paul and in 2010 under the chairmanship of Professor Simeon Mc Intosh. None of the recommendations of these three bodies have ever been implemented. It is the hope of many that Grenadians at long last will now have the opportunity to receive a brand new constitution following the work of the present committee.