19 August 2010

Montserrat Begins Public Education on Draft Constitution

Constitution Committee releases community education plans


The Constitution Implementation and Advice Committee (CIAC) has begun a campaign to educate the general public about the contents of the proposed draft Constitution Order for Montserrat. According to Alric “Jim” Taylor, Chairman of the CIAC every effort will be made to connect with the public through various forums and media. Following the decision in the Legislative Council in June to give an additional three months for public debate and discussion, the committee was asked to lead the education campaign on the new draft document.

In July, ZJB Radio Montserrat in collaboration with the Government Information Unit (GIU) began airing a series of infomercials called “Your Constitution Minute”. These spots have now been converted to YouTube videos with the text and information on how persons can share their views on the new laws. The videos are available on the Government of Montserrat website at http://www.gov.ms/  and on the Spirit of Montserrat fan page on Facebook.

Mr. Taylor along with representatives from the Attorney General’s office, including Parliamentary counsel Ms. Barbara Vargas will be part of panel which will lead weekly town hall meetings. Meetings are scheduled to be held in St. Peters, Brades and Look Out communities every Thursday in August.All of the meetings will be recorded for replay on radio and the local access channel on Cable TV.

Persons are still encouraged to download a copy of the draft constitution order at http://www.constitution.gov.ms/ .
 Copies have also been made available at local health centres, churches and the public library. A personal copy can be requested at the Office of the Chief Minister or the Deputy Governor’s office.
The debate on the new constitution is expected to resume in late September.

Mechanism in place to process comments from public on draft constitution, says CIAC

Attending and participating in the town hall meetings on the constitution is not an exercise in futility says a representative of the Constitution Implementation and Advisory Committee. According to Nerissa Golden, Director of Information & Communications the first town hall meeting in Salem was quite interactive and revealed several issues that members of the public wanted addressed before the draft document reaches back to the legislature in September.

“Since these educational meetings began on radio in June until now, we’ve been noting the recommendations of those who have come forward with their comments and have been forwarding them to the Clerk of Counsels,” explained Golden. “It is also important to note that the mandate of the CIAC is to educate the public about the contents of the document. However, the forum is open for persons who have read the document to make constructive suggestions about what it contains, and what areas they believe are deficient.”

Sir Howard Fergus, who chaired the Constitution Review Commission when it began in 2001, says “a mechanism is in place to handle these recommendations once they have been turned over to the Clerk of Counsels. All ideas and suggestions will be collated and presented to the government.”

The second town hall meeting will be held on Thursday, August 19 at 7:15pm at the Old School Room in St. Peters. The general public is invited to come out and discuss the section of the draft constitution order dealing with the Rights and Freedoms and more specifically the definition of a Montserratian.

Sir Howard Fergus says “one good thing about this educational process is that persons have begun to read the document. I’ve been involved in the constitutional process in the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla and it has been the same, many people including government leaders had never read the document.”

“People need to be aware of what the laws say and thought must be given to what it does mean to be a Montserratian,” added the former Speaker of the House.

The town hall meetings are also being recorded and will be replayed on ZJB Radio Montserrat later in the week.Copies of the constitution can be read at www.constitution.gov.ms. Comments can be submitted at ciac@gov.ms .