Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | June 1, 2009
Home : Letters
PM is beginning tosee more clearly


The Editor, Sir:

The prime minister should get it right. He contends, wrongfully, that I "continue to insist that (he) erred in suggesting that the dual-citizenship dilemma could be dealt with by a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament". I have never so insisted. Why? Because I had never heard that suggestion coming from him, until last Friday.

What the prime minister had said for sure, for example, on a political platform in North East St Catherine, just before Easter this year, is that, in relation to the qualifications for election or appointment to Parliament, he had "written to the leader of the opposition seeking consensus" on what changes may be required to be made to the relevant provisions of the Constitution.

He declared that three sections, namely Sections 9, 39 and 40, would have to be examined, stating that the Government side could make such changes to the sections "and pass them with the majority that we have, for they are not entrenched".

Making progress

Now that it has been pointed out to him by the leader of the opposition and a Gleaner editorial - and that was what I "continue(d) to insist" - there comes his acknowledgement that section 39 (the qualification provision) is deeply entrenched and can only be amended by means of a referendum. We are making progress.

Second, in relation to Section 40 (the disqualification provision), the prime minister now suggests that the section "is not deeply entrenched and can be amended by a two-thirds majority in each House of Parliament".

But the public should be made aware that the Constitution does not contemplate such a challenging procedure. As he had correctly stated previously, changes may be made to that section "with the majority that we have". Section 40 is an "ordinary" provision; it is neither entrenched (necessitating a two-thirds majority vote in each House) nor deeply entrenched (requiring a referendum). All that is required for amendment of that section is 31 affirmative votes in the House of Representatives and 11 affirmative votes in the Senate.

With a proper understanding of these technical requirements out of the way, we entreat the prime minister to set the exercise firmly in motion for arriving at a consensus for the implementation of the changes that are to be made to these and other provisions of our Constitution. The Opposition is anxious to lend its full support to that undertaking.

I am, etc.,


Opposition Spokesman on Justice

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