20 September, 2010

Montserrat 13

There are some other obvious gaps and deficiencies in the new draft Constitution proposed for Montserrat.  It is to be regretted that no thought has been given in this draft Constitution to providing for a Freedom of Information Act. Without such a law, no one in Montserrat would have the right to obtain information that should be available to the public.  Secret government, which is an enabler of corruption and bad government, is in this way encouraged.
It is to be regretted that an opportunity was not taken to entrench the Tenders Board in the Constitution.  The greater part of the budget is spent on developing infrastructure, repairs and maintenance. Procurement of goods and services offers attractive opportunities for those who would corrupt the process and illegally enrich themselves.  The Tenders Board ought to have the independence and security of tenure of its members protected by the Constitution and by appropriate laws and regulations, backed up by appropriate training for members of the Board.
Amendment of the Constitution.  Section 114 of the draft provides that only the Premier, in very limited circumstances, may request an amendment of the Constitution.  The FCO reserves unlimited right itself to amend the Constitution without any reference to the people or government of Montserrat.  This is clearly highly undesirable.  The Cayman Islands recently completed their constitutional negotiations and accepted a new Constitution.  In the case of the Cayman Islands, the FCO accepted that it would never again amend their Constitution without first putting it to a referendum of the people.  No person can suggest that there is a good reason why some lower standard of democracy should be enjoyed by Montserratians.
A Constitution is the supreme law of any people, subject, in the case of a British Overseas Territory, to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.  A Constitution that is imposed on a people by a foreign power lacks validity and respect. 
In my view, it is the duty of every patriotic Montserratian to insist in the strongest possible terms for a right to comment on and criticise any terms in this draft Constitution that appear unacceptable to them. 
Montserratians have a right to demand that the draft Constitution be put to them for their approval either by a referendum or by some other mechanism calculated to demonstrate their real approval and acceptance of the new Constitution.  Only after this has been done would it be proper for the Governor to pass the draft to the Privy Council for enactment by an Order in Council. 
The British Government has frequently promised that it expects no less than evidence that the people of an Overseas Territory have expressed their support for any amendment to a Constitution. 
There is no reason why Montserrat should be given a second-class Constitution.

1 comment:

  1. Over the weekend, Overseas Minister Henry Bellingham had this to say during his visit to TCI. I presume it applies equally to Montserrat and Anguilla:

    "Inevitably, in light of the Commission of Inquiry recommendations, improvements must be made in a number of areas of the TCI constitution. Some of the issues under consideration are more sensitive than others. Examples include: enhanced level of public financial discipline and more oversight by the Governor. But that is no reason to duck them. The future stability and good governance of TCI is at stake. We must take advantage of this opportunity to get everything right now."

    While I support "enhanced level of public financial discipline and more oversight by the Governor", he doesn't need dictatorial powers to do that.


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