Fri | May 6, 2016

Give public access to take bills to Parliament

Published:Friday | December 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM


A DISCUSSION on certain aspects of our Constitution is warranted after 50 years of having little changes to a Constitution we achieved from an Order in Council from the walls of the Buckingham Palace between 1959 and 1962. An area of our Constitution that deserves debate and possible change is the mechanism by which bills are introduced in the Lower House to be debated. Currently, the only means by which a bill is introduced and debated is by any member of either House, who may also propose any motion or present a petition in the said House, (Section 55, Jamaica's Constitution).

However, I think the proliferation of people's organisations, including women and children interest groups, youth and student groups, NGOs, unions, and so forth, in our society is a signal that we must rethink democratic governance. With the laying down of procedures, I think such interest groups should be given the time and space of Parliament to at least hear the issue(s) of that specific group.

I propose that such a bill may be introduced as a petition signed by 2000 bona fide citizens, a little under one per cent of our people. A bill introduced via such a mechanism for a debate in Parliament may only guarantee a discussion of the bill in the Lower House, and not that it will be passed and sent to the Upper House. I think this can be a great means by which the Government can show that it is really about people power, and that the mantra to communicate, have open dialogue and consult with citizens are not just political rhetoric on which it campaigned, but willful action. Democracy, like justice, must not only be felt to be done but seen to be done.