The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Toni Ni­cholas

On Tues­day the Par­lia­ment of Saint Lu­cia met to dis­cuss the Suzie d’Au­vergne Con­sti­tu­tion Re­port. The House meet­ing co­in­cided with the an­niver­sary of the de­ceased jus­tice’s death in 2014.

In pre­sent­ing the re­port, the prime min­is­ter had much praise for the com­mis­sion­ers. He also in­vited his side of the House to be open and frank on the oc­ca­sion with their con­tri­bu­tions.

Castries Cen­tral MP Richard Fred­er­ick was the first to ad­dress the re­port. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “let me start off by say­ing that this process to­day here is ex­tremely im­por­tant. Be­cause the sit­u­a­tions to which the amend­ments speak are ar­eas in which I be­lieve our democ­racy is weak.”

Ac­cord­ing to the MP merely brows­ing through the rec­om­men­da­tions or tak­ing a cur­sory ap­proach to them would not suf­fice. “The im­por­tance and the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the im­ple­men­ta­tions of the amend­ments to which we may agree can­not be un­der­es­ti­mated,” Fred­er­ick said, point­ing out that the re­port com­prised over 350 pages.

A lawyer by pro­fes­sion, Fred­er­ick ac­knowl­edged that the present 35-year-old Con­sti­tu­tion was in dire need of mod­ern­iza­tion, adding that there were rec­om­men­da­tions he would never agree and some that should be ac­cepted across the board. He cited Sec­tions 8 and 9, which deal with the pro­tec­tion of the Queen’s Chain.

“Gov­ern­ment af­ter gov­ern­ment have ex­pressed the in­ten­tion to pro­tect the Queen’s Chain,” he said, “yet time and time again we yield to pres­sures by for­eign in­vestors. The pat­ri­mony of this coun­try ought not be sold. And in in­stances where pri­vate prop­erty is ac­quired, pro­vi­sions are made (in the re­port) for a prompt and full set­tle­ment.” That he was in full agree­ment with.

The ques­tion of same-sex mar­riage was, for the op­po­si­tion Castries Cen­tral MP, some­thing else. “For those who be­lieve we should whole­salely em­brace the re­cent pro­nounce­ments by the United States Supreme Court in re­la­tion to same-sex mar­riage, our com­mis­sion­ers were of a dif­fer­ent view.

“Rec­om­men­da­tion 31 speaks of mar­riage be­tween a man and a woman. In the event a vote is be­ing taken on this, and your hum­ble ser­vant is ab­sent, might I in­vite you to take my vote now? I vote yes, that mar­riage should be be­tween a man and a woman. We are not pre­pared to bend over back­ward to fa­cil­i­tate the de­ci­sions of First World coun­tries. I am quite happy that even be­fore the an­nounce­ment was made by the Supreme Court our com­mis­sion­ers, in their wis­dom, had seen it fit­ting to make that rec­om­men­da­tion.”

Fred­er­ick, who con­fessed he had not gone through all of the rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­port, gave much time to rec­om­men­da­tions 50-55 and 59-64, which he said spoke to who should or should not be par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. He ex­pressed dif­fi­culty ac­cept­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion that an elected par­lia­men­tar­ian who is made a min­is­ter would have to re­sign as a par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Sev­eral mem­bers on Tues­day spent much time on that rec­om­men­da­tion, which would di­rectly im­pact them. The dis­cus­sion con­tin­ued on Thurs­day with the sen­a­tors and will re­sume at another House sit­ting on Tues­day.

Castries Cen­tral MP Richard Fred­er­ick.

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