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Recommendations for the Constitutional Reform Committee

April 19, 2023

Legislators in Gordon House
Legislators in Gordon House

Dear Editor,

Now that we have finally got around to reviewing the Jamaican Constitution one can only hope the Constitutional Reform Committee will seize the opportunity to give consideration to some radical changes to improve our system of governance — changes allowing for the participation of a greater number of citizens and higher levels of transparency in the legislative and the executive arms of government.

If I am permitted to be audacious, I wish to recommend some changes to our constitutional arrangements. My first suggestion is to have a fixed election date written into the document.

The current arrangement, with the prime minister having the authority to call a general election at anytime — advantageous to his or her political party, not the country — has not served us well. Indeed, it has arguably contributed to Jamaica's underdevelopment since Independence in 1962.

Secondly, I recommend that representation of legislators in the Lower House be on the basis of proportional representation, whereby seats are allocated based on the percentage of the popular vote received. This would break the Jamaica Labour Party/People's National Party (JLP/PNP) stranglehold on Parliament and allow for more citizens to serve in the legislature.

I also propose that the constitution establishes a clear separation of powers between the executive branch of government and the legislature. No Member of Parliament (MP) should be a member of the executive branch. Ministers of Government are to be accountable to the legislature, whereby the people's representatives are sent to lobby and advocate for constituency and national development.

Clear separation of powers will also widen the pool of citizens who possess the expertise, professionalism, and willingness to serve in Government, but only if they can serve without having to pledge allegiance to the JLP/PNP cabal.

The revised constitution should have clear provisions for the impeachment of members of the executive and MPs. This would go a long way towards reducing corrupt practices, strengthening accountability, and restoring faith in those charged with governance.

A constitutional provision allowing for the recall of delinquent, non-performing legislators has the potential to transform the political representation landscape. Faced with the possibility of being recalled and replaced, MPs may just be compelled to provide genuine representation for their constituents and constituency.

These proposals are not original and, if we are honest, we will admit the existing governance arrangements have not served us well. The revolving door of alternating JLP and PNP governments has benefited many Labourites and Comrades but has conspired to prevent Jamaicans from achieving our God-given potential as a people.

The country is impatient for genuine constitutional reform. Superficial cosmetic changes will not result in radical transformation.

Wayne Plummer

Greater Portmore

St Catherine

Taken from the Jamaica Observer

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