26 August, 2010

Montserrat 1

Montserrat is being offered a new, ante-deluvian Constitution.  Last week I visited Montserrat at the invitation of the Hon Donaldson Romeo MLC to consult with him and members of the public on the new draft Constitution 2010.  This has been drafted by a team of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) lawyers, and agreed to by the government of the island.  They propose that the Legislative Council should pass a Resolution approving the draft with or without amendment.  The present Constitution dates to the year 1989.  My conclusion is that the new draft Constitution does not advance government in Montserrat.  Rather, it sets Montserratians back decades, particularly in the area of human rights.
During the three days that I was in Montserrat, I met with one youth group, two service clubs, the Rastafarian organization, one church group, and various individuals, including a number of the island’s barristers and solicitors.  I also took part in a television interview, a radio call-in programme, and interviews by various members of the press.  I am especially grateful to Jean Kelsick Esq, barrister and solicitor of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, for some of his observations on weaknesses in the draft Constitution, some of which I have been happy to adopt.
Montserrat is one of the few British Overseas Territories still receiving financial support from the British Government.  The receipt of grant-in-aid, I was told by several Montserratians, makes it difficult for them to believe that their views on the draft constitution will be welcomed.  Many believe that the draft Constitution is being offered to them on a “take it or leave” basis.  This unfortunate, and wrong, view of theirs is reinforced by recent actions of the local Government. 
Government has made a concerted effort to rush the draft Constitution through the Legislature without any public consultation.  Only reluctantly did the government suspend its efforts to have an approving resolution passed.  The public has been given three months to ‘consult’.  The resulting consultation process has been deeply flawed.  It would appear that no effort is being made to gather any input from the people of Montserrat regarding the draft Constitution. 
The government has established a Constitution Implementation and Advice Committee whose main function appears to be to sell the draft to the public, rather than to get suggestions for improvement of the draft.  This is no way to secure the approval and support of the majority of the people to the proposed new Constitution. 
The process chosen for the introduction of a new Constitution shows an attitude of pure contempt on the part of the administration towards the people of Montserrat.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.