Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PM on Constitution

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, says while ’it may well make perfect sense’ for Trinidad and Tobago to have an executive presidency, such an arrangement will not work in his country, as it will give one office holder too much power.
’I don’t know, I don’t live here. I have not studied the political culture and I don’t feel it the same way in which I feel it intimately as I do in St Vincent and the Grenadines,’ Gonsalves said on Monday.
’It is our assessment that to conjoin the power of a Prime Minister with the power of a head of State, head of government, or head of state in our circumstances, that it is a matter which will end up making that office holder more powerful than the current situation.’
Gonsalves was delivering the feature address during the YesTT International Conference, themed ’Strengthening Democratic Processes and Good Governance’ at the Hilton Trinidad in St Ann’s.
He himself faces a critical referendum on a new draft constitution for his country, which will give more authority to the Opposition, but does not include an executive presidency, as is the case with the working document prepared by a round table operating out of the office of his good friend, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
He said, however, that in his view, the time has come for St Vincent and the Grenadines to stop having the Queen of England as its head of state.
Saying that he has nothing personal against Queen Elizabeth II and is sure she is a wonderful Queen for England, Gonsalves stressed, ’I find it a bit of a Nancy story that the Queen of England can really be the Queen of St Vincent and the Grenadines.’
Nonetheless, he made it clear that his administration is not interested in replacing Queen Elizabeth as his country’s head of state with an executive president, but is simply seeking the best parliamentary model with its constitutional reform.
Unlike the working document for the latest draft constitution in this country, which was prepared by a round table by the Patrick Manning administration before being sent out for public consultations, the draft constitution drafted in St Vincent came about after an agreement between Gonsalves and the Opposition Leader first, and public consultations secondly, before being written.
’In our case, we went to the people first. I am not saying our way is better. I am saying it is different,’ Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves needs to gain 67 per cent of the popular vote in his country to win the referendum on the draft constitution, but says even if he loses but the result is 61 or even 65 per cent, ’that would be the opposition’s worst nightmare’, as he will call a general election and predicts a victory that will allow him to bring the measure again for another referendum in six months’ time.
’If I fail I’d rather fail doing something noble,’ Gonsalves said.