By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony has debunked a report by a Caribbean news agency that quoted him as saying term limits for government leaders should be decided by the people.
Saint Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony
“I believe that’s a matter for the people to decide, and I share the view that the people of the country will decide whether they are tired of you or not,” Anthony is reported to have said.
The CMC report, which was also carried by the Trinidad Express, claimed that Anthony was speaking against the decision of the Trinidad and Tobago People’s Partnership coalition government to introduce legislation to amend the country’s constitution to provide two-term limit for prime ministers and the right to recall legislators.
However, Anthony told local media that he was addressing the bigger picture of constitutional reform in the Caribbean and was not specifically referring to the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led coalition government’s proposal on constitutional reform, which he asserted is a local Trinidad and Tobago matter.
“I think she is speaking specifically to the domestic situation in Trinidad and Tobago. Both her government as well as the predecessor government under Manning went through some very difficult constitutional and political issues and constitutional reform has been on the agenda in Trinidad and Tobago for some time,” he explained.
Anthony acknowledges, though, that Persad-Bissessar’s proposal is “nothing new” and, in fact, constitutional reform issues have been championed throughout the length and breadth of the Caribbean.
“And I’ll put it to you that nearly every report of every constitutional commission in the Caribbean makes reference to these issues. Nothing new,” he pointed out.
The Saint Lucia prime minister said he has no problems with term limits for members of parliaments once they are based on serious infractions.
As for term limits for prime ministers?
“I believe that is a matter for people to determine. I share the view which says the people of the country decide whether they are tired of you or not,” Anthony said.
Constitutional reform is the new buzz in the Caribbean. At least three regional governments, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, have started this process to make amendments to their respective constitutions.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Another key change proposed for the Trinidad and Tobago constitution is the provision for run-off elections, making eligible only persons who win more than 50% of votes in a constituency to be elected as an MP. If all candidates fail to achieve this, a “supplementary poll” will trigger such a run-off between the top two candidates within 15 days. The appointment of a prime minister and convening of Parliament will be on hold pending all supplementary polls.
The Trinidad and Tobago prime minister said 91 countries worldwide have term limits and she wants her country to become number 92. She sees these changes as opening doors for more people who would have an interest in politics.
“We have had our fair share of leaders who continue to rule and refused to give way even though it was obvious that the time for change had come. This can suffocate new talent and stifle a democracy,” Persad-Bissessar said.
In Grenada, an initial report has been submitted to the Cabinet by a constitution reform advisory committee, which covered 25 proposed areas for change to the constitution but only 12 were recommended for Cabinet approval.
Grenada Legal Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Elvin Nimrod
The 12 amendments include the proposal for Grenada to recognize the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal, as well as for an official country name change from the “State of Grenada” to “Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.”
The people of Carriacou and Petite Martinique have lobbied for this change to the passport for years.
Legal affairs minister and deputy prime minister Elvin Nimrod, who is from Carriacou, said other suggestions for reform include the oath taken by government officials when accepting office, from “allegiance to the Queen of England” to “allegiance to Grenada,” changing the title from the “Chief of Police” to “Commissioner of Police” and establishing an “Electoral Commission” instead of having a “Supervisor of Elections.”
Grenadians are expected to vote in a referendum on February 10, 2015, to decide on these changes to the country’s constitution.
Nimrod said at least two-thirds majority of the votes cast in a referendum is required to have authority to change the Constitution, as well as two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives.