December 12, 2015
Dr. Lawrence Joseph
Consultant to Parliament
c/o Chambers, Joseph & Joseph
Dear Dr. Joseph
I am in receipt of the above-referenced article which you requested the office of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee to circulate to members of the Committee. Permit me to acknowledge your sterling contribution to public awareness and debate on matters of public interest including Constitution Reform through your weekly newspaper column and to offer my own comments on your above-referenced article.
While appreciating your vested interest in the Constitution Reforms Bills that have been laid before Parliament – first as a member of the Committee that put forward proposals which informed the Bills and now as the Consultant to Parliament, I am rather taken aback by the tone of this article coming from one who is the Consultant to Parliament on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Your article comments as follows:
- “…one would rationally conclude that the process is democratic and transparent”
- Whilst some may consider the opposition items to be worthy of consideration, the fact is that we have gone through a democratic and transparent process already. The Committee had even bent over backwards to offer accommodation.”
Your observations, Dr. Joseph, typify the malady of the Committee. It seems to me that the influential members of the Committee erroneously thought that the process was about the Cabinet (what recommendation would Cabinet favour) and the Opposition (what would satisfy the Opposition) and COMPLETELY missed the point. Constitutions are not about a Committee or about lawyers/judges, no matter how learned they may be, nor the Cabinet nor Leader of the Opposition. A Constitution is about the CITIZENS. One would have thought that after three failed attempts, all led by legal luminaries, this lesson would have been learnt.
As a civil society representative on the Committee, I am particularly aggrieved that following the National Consultation in October 2014, the CRAC did not keep its promise to the citizenry about an open door. Your article notes, “The Committee then gave further consideration to certain other items which came up during the process and made further reeommendations to government.”
Post National Consultation, my letter of November 10, 2014, to the Chairman, circulated to all members of the CRAC, noted the following:
- The CRAC did not enjoy credibility among a significant segment of the nation in whose interest it ought to be seen to be working.
- Post–NCCR, a number of members of the Committee had acknowledged that the recommendations made to Cabinet in July were premature and that the CRAC erred in not presenting its proposals to the people for their feedback and refinement prior to making recommendations to Cabinet.
- The CRAC seemed not to have learnt from its past mistakes and was about to repeat the mistake of making recommendations to Cabinet before prior adequate engagement with stakeholders.
- In the interest of transparency, the other items upon which the CRAC was deliberating should be the subject of another national consultation which would feature technical presentations on all the items. The presentations would be deliberated upon by working groups. Both political parties should have their say on the matters to be deliberated. Consensus would emerge to inform the recommendations to be made by the CRAC.
But of course, this fell on deaf ears.
It is my considered view, Dr. Joseph, that the Committee brought itself into disrepute with the citizens of the county by its flawed process and lack of sensitivity to their demands to meaningfully participate in informing the recommendations that would be put forward to Parliament. So, if the opposition appears to be “riding this wave,” it is the Committee that has created the conditions. And I would ask, Dr. Joseph, that you reflect on whether you, as a former influential member of the Committee, contributed to these conditions.
With all due respect Dr. Joseph, permit me to observe that the article suggests that one could well ask whether or not the article suggests that the author may also be afflicted by syndrome that it describes.
Sandra C. A. Ferguson
Inter Agency Group of Development Organisations