Summary: Constitutional reform
is underway in the Bahamas, where the Constitutional Reform
Commission has begun its public education campaign. The Commission
intends to use public referendums to guide the process. One of the
issues up for discussion is wither the Bahamas should move to a full
representation (proportional representation) system.
Nassau Guardian, Bahamas
Constitution Reform booklet launched
Vanessa C. Rolle
July 16, 2003
The Constitutional Reform Commission on Monday began
its public education campaign with the launching of a booklet, The
Bahamas Constitution: Options for Change.
An initial number of
20,000 copies of the publication have been produced and are being
distributed locally, with distribution set to hit the Family Islands
by the end of this week.
A series of town meetings and campaigns
are scheduled both locally, and in the Fami ly Islands spanning a
At a press conference held at the Commission's
headquarters in Victoria Gardens, one of the framers of the present
Constitution and Commission Chairman, Paul Adderley, said that the
road to constitutional reform will be a democratic one as the people
will decide on recommendations via a referendum.
outlines specific related ideologies, including the strengthening of
the fundamental freedoms and civil and political rights of the
individual, and cri tically examining the structure of executive
Questions to consider, Mr. Adderley said, also include:
Whether The Bahamas should remain a monarchy and pledge allegiance
to the British Sovereign; what changes should be made to the
citizenship provisions; should the Senate be abolished, and
proportional representation, as to whether the membership of the
House of Assembly should be determined by the percentage of votes
polled in general elections.
Also up for review were: Questions as
to w hether the executive powers of the Prime Minister should be
limited; should the Privy Council in London be retained as the final
Court of Appeal; should the appointment of judges be subject to the
approval of Parliament; and should the entrenched provisions of the
Constitution be limited.
"The appointment of the Commission comes
at a time when there is world-wide recognition of the need for
increased involvement of the people in the process of democratic
governance," Mr. Adderley said. "This is a special fe ature of our
mandate so that our Constitution can be seen and known to be the
product of our national collective will."
He said that the present
Constitution came about as a result of an Act of the United Kingdom
Parliament, which stipulates that the Constitution of The Bahamas
is, in fact, a law.
"No Bahamian legislative process was necessary
to bring that into effect," he said.
The British, explained Mr.
Adderley, were ready to grant Independence to The Bahamas during the
first Constit utional Conference held in 1963, but political parties
were not ready at that time.
The United Bahamian Party formed the
government at that time and the Progressive Liberal Party was not
prepared for it under the political rules in The Bahamas, he said.
The nation was still not prepared for it by 1968 said Mr. Adderley,
adding that the PLP government at that time were not prepared to
rush into it unless the Bahamian people were ready.
became an example of evolutionary progr ess in stages measured by
the people's will as it was perceived to be. However, in 1973, we
were ready. A Green Paper was published, a White Paper was
published, and there was a national campaign to educate the people.
With the Party in opposition not opposed to the principle of
Independence, it was not really difficult to craft an Independence
document, particularly since the British had many Colonial
precedents to follow which had been accepted by othder former
Colonies in the Caribbean," he said.
Mr. Adde rley continued: "We
want to avoid the complaints which the Caribbean countries already
run into with their Constitutions. Trinidad amended theirs long time
ago. Barbados had a Constitution Review Commission two years ago and
Jamaica was a little bit longer. So we are not breaking new ground
here when we think about amending the Constitution in The Bahamas."
Mr. Adderley said that the constitutional reform process should not
be left to lawyers or legislators, and considered it imperative that
the people be i nvolved to attain optimum success.
Bahamians have misconceptions regarding their constitutional rights
as it pertains to the fundamentals of their freedom, he said.
all depends on the freedom you're looking for. There is no such
thing as absolute freedom, absolute in a sense that you can do what
you like whenever you like. That's the difficulty but we'll see how
far this goes with regard to fundamental rights," said Mr. Adderley.