Boundaries commission and constitutional reform puckishness in the parliament of St Lucia

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By Caribbean News Global fav

TORONTO, Canada – At the sitting of parliament on February 23, 2021, prime minister Allen Chastanet authored another episode of puckish and vacuous exploits, to introduce the Constituency Boundaries Commission December 2014, the provision in Section 57, that there shall be a Constituency Boundaries Commission for Saint Lucia; while attempting to be virtuous, in search of prudence on constitutional reform.

The executive summary of the Constituency Boundaries Commission for Saint Lucia, December 2014, states:

“This proposal recognises the need for increasing the number of constituencies so as to accommodate the natural increase in the population of Saint Lucia and the increasing concentration of this population in the northern part of Saint Lucia. As such, it focuses on the northern, more densely populated region, with a particular emphasis on what are the three most populous constituencies currently: Gros Islet, Castries Southeast and Babonneau.

“The principal aim is to ensure the creation of constituencies that are as equitably sized as possible, keeping in mind the need for contiguity and communications, and a respect of natural and administrative boundaries. It suggests the formation of three constituencies in Gros Islet where there is currently one; the formation of a new constituency out of parts of the current Castries South and Castries Southeast constituencies, to be called Castries Southwest; and the formation of a new constituency comprised primarily of parts of the current constituencies of Babonneau, Castries North and Castries East. This would be called Castries Northeast. Some further realignments proposals are made for seats in the District of Castries so as to ensure that the seats are within the proposed limits.”

In the usual inability of the prime minister to explain anything without due imprecisions and exhibition of loftiness, he submitted the “lack of support” from the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) to craft the narrative for “non-participation” in the process meantime oblivious to his government ineptitude to attain the required 2/3’s majority by law, to effect the Constituency Boundaries Commission recommendations.

The prime minister also referenced the SLP 16-1 and 14-3 majority and their inability to constitutional reform, however, he left-out matters of history, culture and inclusion, dating back to 1997. Moreover, legal action fundamental to the non-implementation of the Constituency Boundaries Commission was conveniently absent from arguments offered (unchallenged) in the seclusion of parliament.

Regrettable, the sitting of parliament February 23 – 24, 2021, has been described by many as a Ti-Punch, rum shop-talk session, filled with bogus and nonsensical abstract.

The prime minister made no reference and/or mention of the judicial review by Guy Joseph. And neither was there any explanation why a government representative on the Constituency Boundaries Commission, “reneged on her support for the report to eventually became Speaker of the House and later an ambassador in the UK,” said a government minister, to Caribbean News Global (CNG) request for comment. He added. “What a tangled web of deceit by the snake oil salesman.”

It is by no accident that the leader of the opposition, Philip J Pierre, has said that Saint Lucia needs a robust judicial system as well as a dialogue on joining the Caribbean Court of Justice.

“For our independence to be meaningful, we must have a robust judicial system where access to justice is time-sensitive and the poor and vulnerable have the confidence that they will be treated justly and fairly. Our justice system must also reflect an understanding of the culture of our people, and in this regard, serious consideration should be given to adopting the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final appellate Court and a replacement for the English based Privy Council,” Pierre said.

Furthermore, irrespective of the prime ministers’ narrative, the facts and truth of the report of the Constituency Boundaries Commission for Saint Lucia, December 2014, reads:

Establishment of Commission

“This Constituency Boundaries Commission was established on June 2012, with Peter I. Foster, Q.C., Speaker of the House of Assembly as its chairman. Initially appointed as members were Leo Clarke and Shirley Lewis appointed under Section 57(2)(b) and Eldridge Stephens and Elrus Elcock appointed under Section 57(2) (c) of the Constitution of Saint Lucia.

“On December 2, 2013, Leonne Theodore-John was appointed to replace Elrus Elcock who demitted office.

“The Commission was appointed to review periodically, as per Section 58(1) of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, the number and the boundaries of the constituencies into which Saint Lucia is divided and to submit its report to the Governor-General.”

Convening of Commission

“The Commission convened on Monday, March 25, 2013. In its initial meeting the Commission agreed to a set of Rules of Procedures to be followed.

“In the course of deliberations the Commission sought the services of Edwin St Catherine, director of statistics, to assist members with the provision of the requisite maps of Saint Lucia.

“Subsequent meetings followed on November 25, December 11, 2013, and February 3, 2014. At these meetings, the Commission deliberated over the possible increase in the number of constituencies.

“The following engaged the Commission’s attention:

(a) The inclusion of four additional constituencies.

(b) The population increase within urban areas especially in Gros Islet.

(c) The change of population in some rural constituencies.

“Further meetings were held on September 3 and October 16, 2014, to consider the only proposal before the Commission which was submitted by the representatives appointed on the advice of the prime minister.

“A site visit of the proposed constituencies was also conducted so that Members could physically view the proposed boundaries.”

Discourse on the constitution

The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) commenced constitutional reform in 2012, and four years later, June 6, 2016, was voted out of office.

In September 2017, opposition leader Pierre nominated two persons to the special parliamentary committee which a United Workers Party (UWP) administration resolved would set the pace for constitutional reform.

Perhaps the UWP Cabinet, parliament and prime minister Chastanet should explain beyond shameless hypocrisy and crocodile tears:

  • What transpired on assuming office in 2016?
  • What is the progress following the discourse on constitutional reform broadcast on NTN March 6, 2017?
  • What is the status of the agreement to achieving constitutional reform?
  • What is the next step?
  • Was prime minister Chastanet’s performance in parliament (February 23 – 24, 2021) a red herring on the heels of general elections?

Delivering Saint Lucia’s 42nd anniversary of independence national address, Facing our greatest challenges: Part 1 opposition leader Pierre, reiterated: “ In improving our democratic institutions, a labour government under my leadership will undertake constitutional reform to reflect the hopes, ideas and aspirations of our people in a rapidly changing environment which is calling for greater accountability and better use of scarce resources.”

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