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Antigua: Opposition names former prime minister to Constitutional Commission


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Baldwin Spencer

(CMC) – The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) has named former prime minister Baldwin Spencer to serve as its nominee on a proposed Constitutional Commission.

But UPP leader, Harold Lovell has called on Prime Minister Gaston Browne to ensure that the Commission is established by the end of this month ahead of the planned referendum on November 6 on whether or not Antigua and Barvbuda would replace the London-based Privy Council with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

“That is because many concerns have been expressed where persons want to be assured that the question of constitutional reform and putting on the question, some of these important issues will not be side stepped after the referendum.

“And so it is very important that we have it in place that we establish the terms of reference, that we establish the composition, that we are assured that there has been some budgetary allocation to facilitate the work (of the Commission),” he said.

Last month, Prime Minister Browne, speaking at a public education forum on the CCJ-Privy Council issue, said that his administration will proceed with comprehensive constitutional reform.

“I want to give you a commitment today…all the members of the UPP and all the people of Antigua and Barbuda that we will pursue comprehensive constitutional reform. We will, to the extent that my government has passed the decision to engage the UPP party to appoint the deputy chairman of the Constitutional Commission,” he said.

Browne said that former CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron had agreed to serve as the chairman and that he expects the additional members will come from the wider civil society adding ‘so we are not trying to politicise this issue.

In a statement, the UPP said that it had nominated Spencer since it regarded him as “the best person to fill the position”.

Lovell had earlier received correspondence from Prime Minister Browne inviting him to “nominate someone who is capable of serving” in the position of Deputy, on behalf of the UPP.

“We believe that he has the skill, the understanding and he has the passion for constitutional reform and he will be able to touch those issues which affect the ordinary man and women here in Antigua and Barbuda and will be able to, not only push but to explain what is meant by the amendments we would wish to propose and also to hear from the public,” Lovell said.

In his letter Prime Minister Browne says that he “intends to inaugurate that body shortly after November 6, 2018,” which is the date of the Referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice.

The UPP statement quoted Lovell as reminding Prime Minister Browne that “accession to the CCJ was but one aspect” of the party’s overall position, and calls for action on the five other reforms proposed in his March 18, 2016 letter to Grenadian jurist Dr. Francis Alexis.

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