Constitution process begins

The Government announced Friday it has established a programme to recommence the constitutional review process.

Mr. Tibbetts

Mr. Tibbetts

It is anticipated that the programme will lead to a national referendum of the subject before the end of the current Government’s term in office.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said Friday in a post-Cabinet press briefing a fresh start to the process is called for because the last efforts were abandoned.

‘Three years hence – almost four years – much has happened since then.’

One of those things was the benefit of the knowledge of constitutional reviews in other Overseas Territories, he said.

‘We don’t want to get tied down [to adhering to the 2003 draft constitution],’ he said. ‘It would be doing the country a disservice in getting the best constitution possible for the people.’

However, the fresh start does not mean that elements of the 2003 draft will not be used, Mr. Tibbetts said.

‘All it means, is it won’t be limited to [what was in the draft constitution].’

Mr. Tibbetts said a Constitutional Review Secretariat has been established, with Cabinet Secretary Orrett Connor as its leader. Other Secretariat staff will include Senior Crown Counsel Suzanne Lookloy-Bothwell, who is on secondment from the Legal Department; and Samuel Rose, who is on secondment from the Cabinet Office.

The Secretariat will also hire a receptionist with secretarial responsibilities.

The Government has also retained the services of Professor Jeffrey Jowell, QC – a leading authority on public law – for advice and guidance during the process of constitutional reform and during the negotiations with the UK government.

Mr. Tibbetts said the Government had a timeline in mind to achieve the new constitution.

‘We would wish for the process to be completed as soon as possible, but we’re not going to… rush and not do it properly.’

Asked if he thought the national referendum would take place during this term of office for the Government, Mr. Tibbetts said: ‘Absolutely.’

The Constitutional Review Secretariat will have offices in Elizabethan Square and will become operational 1 March.

Exact details and a more exact timeline of the constitutional review process will be announced in the coming weeks.

‘By the time the Secretariat opens… we will have ironed out each step [in the constitutional review process], making sure it’s more organised… guaranteeing a result, guaranteeing the best result,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Although the PPM stated some of its wishes for the content of the new constitution in its election campaign manifesto, Mr. Tibbetts made it clear that it should be what the public wants.

‘It is incumbent on us that whatever we negotiate [for a new constitution] reflects the wishes of the public, not my wishes,’ he said. ‘And I mean that.’

Mr. Tibbetts refrained from outlining the aspects of the new constitution that the PPM government would like to see.

‘We don’t want to go on a campaign trying to convince the public about something,’ he said.

Fellow Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin said the PPM government wanted to truly determine what the public wants in a new constitution.

‘We don’t want to be dogmatic or categorical about any aspect,’ he said.

Mr. Tibbetts said the review process will include intensive public education and consultation leading to the national referendum of the subject, followed by negotiations with the UK and a new constitution, ‘which is acceptable both to the people of these island and the UK.’

The Constitutional Review Secretariat will be charged with establishing the campaign to educate and consult with the public on the issue in order to ‘enable and promote the participation and contribution of all, and the exclusion of none,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

One group in particular the government hopes becomes actively involved is the Opposition, he said.

‘The government hopes the Opposition will utilise the opportunities presented by this consultative and inclusive approach to become involved in this exercise, which is of the utmost national importance.’