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Constitution uproar and Confusion

This began in or about 2001-2002, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) requested, offered its British Overseas Territories (BOT), at the time British Dependent Territories (BDT) to do an overhaul of the Constitution under which they functioned as a colony of Britain. Montserrat functioned under a Constitution Order 1989, which was handed down to the island.

There are those who even argue that the confusion over the outcome of that offer began as far back as 1989, when Britain quashed whatever Constitutional arrangements then existed and replaced with the 1989 Constitutional Order.

Today there are those who say, that because the new Constitution that has been drafted and issued around mid May this year for information, as the Chief Minister had promised and posted on a Government website, does not advance Montserrat’s status in any way, it should just be left to Britain to initiate another Constitution Order.

This latest debacle which is perceived could escalate in efforts to block the legislature from meeting on Tuesday next week, began because since the most recent and last talks between Britain and local legislators (government), it had been announced that there would be no more consultations with the people.

MP Donaldson Romeo went public on the issue when he issued a Statement calling on the government who insists that the Draft Constitution will be passed on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, to have the Constitution discussed as wide as possible before any passage in the Legislature.

Romeo wrote: “So before any talk of “closure” on negotiations with the FCO over Montserrat’s new Constitution, we should take a leaf out of the book of our sister Caribbean colony, the Cayman Islands.

“To make sure that the Cayman Constitution truly belonged to the Caymanian people, the Cayman Government and people formed a committee, ranging from churches and community groups to the Bar Association and many stakeholder groups.  The committee’s job was to revise the draft they received from the FCO. (A draft that was very similar to our own.) Then, the Government and People, with their lawyers in attendance, negotiated points of difference with the British. When they were satisfied, they had TV shows and public discussions. The proposed Constitution then went to a referendum, and that is what Her Majesty in Council approved. The Government and People of Montserrat should do no less.

“… our own lawyers should be involved in every step we take in our negotiations on the most important law of all.  We need to get our youth involved, for the youth are our future.  Men and women of God should not only pray but fearlessly speak out and contribute to the process.  Montserrat’s Diaspora has an important part to play.  Expats and all lovers of Montserrat are welcome too.  We need to get people from every area in our society involved.

“This is Montserrat and HMG’s opportunity to ensure that our new Constitution is truly progressive, more democratic, fairer and less colonial than our present Constitution.”

Since then CM Reuben T Meade had reportedly said, realizing that opposition members and the public had been expressing displeasure at the attempt to push through the draft on June 29, that his government did not need the opposition to get the bill through parliament; an obvious fact since his government holds six of the nine seats in the legislature.

Montserrat the past two weeks became engulfed in a battle that runs against the passage of a bill in the Legislature that will approve a Constitution that will be termed as one that the people of Montserrat has consulted over and desired.

Government then initiated a radio program to highlight the information of the draft, and appointed Committee called the “Implementation Committee”. On the radio program all of the persons  on the show were civil servants or government appointed publicists, but one Don Romeo. That was somewhat of a fiasco since the civil servants got into arguments with callers to the program, at least one from overseas. It became obvious that there were indeed issues with the draft and people sought to be educated and wished to have amendments or corrections, while others thought the people of Montserrat should have nothing to do with the acceptance of the draft Constitution.

Austin Bramble and John Osborne former Chief Ministers weighed in with their comments. Bramble had this to say on radio in a Statement: “…Should be balanced , therefore recommending that the exercise of the governors discretion must be just, fair and reasonable, and must be in the interest of the people of Montserrat,” referring to sections of the Constitution dealing with the powers of the Governor.

He called for the new constitution that would allow for judicial enquiry where any individual, group, or society as a whole claims injury as a result of the unjust actions by the governor.

CM Meade was able to get his cabinet to come out and say that there has been enough consultation. He Ruben Meade in defending his position on the draft and to get it through the house, said, Montserrat has been able to gain a significant concessions from the British during the negotiations .

“For four years we have been arguing that the Governor cannot have any right to take monies out of the Consolidated Fund to finance any programme which fell under his direct authority. Finally in this last round of discussions,  the British gave in on matters…we were in a position to get them to give in so in effect we are getting more than what was in the previous draft,” the CM argued.

Bramble also put into perspective much of the arguments against passage of the draft Constitution, making it Montserrat’s agreed Constitution as he urged the parliament not to adopt the resolution which will be debated next Tuesday.

“There is a major difference for our people between our parliament being the first to bring the proposed Constitution into law and it being introduced by Order in Council by HMG. If HMG were to make the draft Constitution the law in Montserrat, the responsibility for what happens would always rest with HMG. On the other hand if our legislators first vote the draft into Constitution, every vote cast is cast on behalf of you the people of Montserrat. That would mean that the people of Montserrat had themselves chosen the Constitution. Therefore as the people’s choice nothing in the Constitution would any longer constitute injustice. The people of Montserrat would themselves be responsible for any injury resulting from the provisions of the Constitution.

CM Meade has argued that the people have had ample time to give their input and discuss the Constitutional issues, and that passage of the Order is not being rushed.

The confusion in this matter comes from the explanations that are being given by the select government members who seek to justify every move that the government has recently proposed tha the new draft would be available only for information. By the end of the first attempt to air and pass on information on the draft Constitution, as returned by Britain, the presenters began to call the program a discussion/consultation, advising that the Implementation Committee was impaneled to take people’s views to be passed on to Government!

See Features and Opinions Section for more

See  more Constitutional matters in Editorial and lead story for June 25. Also visit (Montserrat Constitution forum) under Links at left: www.mnialive.com for petitions; and more encouragement to delay the vote.

Our Constitution – Newspaper insert

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

This began in or about 2001-2002, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) requested, offered its British Overseas Territories (BOT), at the time British Dependent Territories (BDT) to do an overhaul of the Constitution under which they functioned as a colony of Britain. Montserrat functioned under a Constitution Order 1989, which was handed down to the island.

There are those who even argue that the confusion over the outcome of that offer began as far back as 1989, when Britain quashed whatever Constitutional arrangements then existed and replaced with the 1989 Constitutional Order.

Today there are those who say, that because the new Constitution that has been drafted and issued around mid May this year for information, as the Chief Minister had promised and posted on a Government website, does not advance Montserrat’s status in any way, it should just be left to Britain to initiate another Constitution Order.

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This latest debacle which is perceived could escalate in efforts to block the legislature from meeting on Tuesday next week, began because since the most recent and last talks between Britain and local legislators (government), it had been announced that there would be no more consultations with the people.

MP Donaldson Romeo went public on the issue when he issued a Statement calling on the government who insists that the Draft Constitution will be passed on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, to have the Constitution discussed as wide as possible before any passage in the Legislature.

Romeo wrote: “So before any talk of “closure” on negotiations with the FCO over Montserrat’s new Constitution, we should take a leaf out of the book of our sister Caribbean colony, the Cayman Islands.

“To make sure that the Cayman Constitution truly belonged to the Caymanian people, the Cayman Government and people formed a committee, ranging from churches and community groups to the Bar Association and many stakeholder groups.  The committee’s job was to revise the draft they received from the FCO. (A draft that was very similar to our own.) Then, the Government and People, with their lawyers in attendance, negotiated points of difference with the British. When they were satisfied, they had TV shows and public discussions. The proposed Constitution then went to a referendum, and that is what Her Majesty in Council approved. The Government and People of Montserrat should do no less.

“… our own lawyers should be involved in every step we take in our negotiations on the most important law of all.  We need to get our youth involved, for the youth are our future.  Men and women of God should not only pray but fearlessly speak out and contribute to the process.  Montserrat’s Diaspora has an important part to play.  Expats and all lovers of Montserrat are welcome too.  We need to get people from every area in our society involved.

“This is Montserrat and HMG’s opportunity to ensure that our new Constitution is truly progressive, more democratic, fairer and less colonial than our present Constitution.”

Since then CM Reuben T Meade had reportedly said, realizing that opposition members and the public had been expressing displeasure at the attempt to push through the draft on June 29, that his government did not need the opposition to get the bill through parliament; an obvious fact since his government holds six of the nine seats in the legislature.

Montserrat the past two weeks became engulfed in a battle that runs against the passage of a bill in the Legislature that will approve a Constitution that will be termed as one that the people of Montserrat has consulted over and desired.

Government then initiated a radio program to highlight the information of the draft, and appointed Committee called the “Implementation Committee”. On the radio program all of the persons  on the show were civil servants or government appointed publicists, but one Don Romeo. That was somewhat of a fiasco since the civil servants got into arguments with callers to the program, at least one from overseas. It became obvious that there were indeed issues with the draft and people sought to be educated and wished to have amendments or corrections, while others thought the people of Montserrat should have nothing to do with the acceptance of the draft Constitution.

Austin Bramble and John Osborne former Chief Ministers weighed in with their comments. Bramble had this to say on radio in a Statement: “…Should be balanced , therefore recommending that the exercise of the governors discretion must be just, fair and reasonable, and must be in the interest of the people of Montserrat,” referring to sections of the Constitution dealing with the powers of the Governor.

He called for the new constitution that would allow for judicial enquiry where any individual, group, or society as a whole claims injury as a result of the unjust actions by the governor.

CM Meade was able to get his cabinet to come out and say that there has been enough consultation. He Ruben Meade in defending his position on the draft and to get it through the house, said, Montserrat has been able to gain a significant concessions from the British during the negotiations .

“For four years we have been arguing that the Governor cannot have any right to take monies out of the Consolidated Fund to finance any programme which fell under his direct authority. Finally in this last round of discussions,  the British gave in on matters…we were in a position to get them to give in so in effect we are getting more than what was in the previous draft,” the CM argued.

Bramble also put into perspective much of the arguments against passage of the draft Constitution, making it Montserrat’s agreed Constitution as he urged the parliament not to adopt the resolution which will be debated next Tuesday.

“There is a major difference for our people between our parliament being the first to bring the proposed Constitution into law and it being introduced by Order in Council by HMG. If HMG were to make the draft Constitution the law in Montserrat, the responsibility for what happens would always rest with HMG. On the other hand if our legislators first vote the draft into Constitution, every vote cast is cast on behalf of you the people of Montserrat. That would mean that the people of Montserrat had themselves chosen the Constitution. Therefore as the people’s choice nothing in the Constitution would any longer constitute injustice. The people of Montserrat would themselves be responsible for any injury resulting from the provisions of the Constitution.

CM Meade has argued that the people have had ample time to give their input and discuss the Constitutional issues, and that passage of the Order is not being rushed.

The confusion in this matter comes from the explanations that are being given by the select government members who seek to justify every move that the government has recently proposed tha the new draft would be available only for information. By the end of the first attempt to air and pass on information on the draft Constitution, as returned by Britain, the presenters began to call the program a discussion/consultation, advising that the Implementation Committee was impaneled to take people’s views to be passed on to Government!

See Features and Opinions Section for more

See  more Constitutional matters in Editorial and lead story for June 25. Also visit (Montserrat Constitution forum) under Links at left: www.mnialive.com for petitions; and more encouragement to delay the vote.

Our Constitution – Newspaper insert