UPP Political Leader welcomes dialogue on Constitutional review

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Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Jamale Pringle (File photo)
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By Robert A. Emmanuel

[email protected]

Political Leader of the United Progressive Party, Jamale Pringle, is receptive to talks on amending the Constitution.

The Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda remains one of a few Constitutions in the region to have never been amended, despite several attempts to do so in the past.

 The current government has announced its intention to try again.

The Cabinet revealed in its weekly notes on Thursday that its members had “intense discussions” on Constitutional reform and spoke about establishing a “Constitutional Review Commission to examine all likely amendments to the 1981 Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order.”

Speaking following the presentation of the Budget to Observer media, Pringle spoke about his Party’s intention on this matter.

“We agree that the Constitution needs reforming, and it is something that we will participate in, [but] I will say that the last time [the ABLP administration] tried to do an amendment, it was with the [Caribbean Court of Justice] and we were pushing for them [at the time] to do a comprehensive change,” he argued.

Reformation to the country’s Constitution requires a referendum—which is also the case in Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, the Bahamas and several other Independent Caribbean countries—but achieving the required support has proven to be a difficult task thus far.

In 2018, a referendum was held on whether the country would move its final appellate court to the CCJ, but that failed, following partisan disunity on several related issues.

Since then, St Lucia—which does not require a referendum on Constitutional amendments—has accepted the CCJ as its final appellate court.

However, there is more to consider for the government than just the CCJ this time around as the passing of Queen Elizabeth II has reopened the regional debate on Republicanism and Constitutional Monarchism.

Several organisations such as the Antiguans and Barbudans for Constitutional Reform and Education (ABCRE) have advocated for this move toward Constitution reform for years, and according to Cabinet spokesperson Melford Nicholas, all proposals by both political parties will be considered prior to final announcement.

“Barbados’ move towards becoming a Republic following Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica in the Commonwealth Caribbean sets up a discussion as to whether we will follow suit.

“Even more recently, with the swearing-in of the MPs, it was very clear that we had to swear an allegiance to King Charles III and that has raised certain matters in the public’s eye, and so we think it is important that these Constitutional matters should have the full attention of the Parliament,” Minister Nicholas explained.

“With St Lucia’s move towards adopting the CCJ, it may become a matter under consideration as well, as any other measure that we collectively, as Parliamentarians on both sides, determine what needs to be on the paper for consideration,” he added.

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