Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Constitutional Commission: The Bahamas should be a Democratic Parliamentary Republic with the Head of State being The President

The Constitutional Commission Recommends that The English Monarch no Longer Be Head of State of The Bahamas and The Office of The Governor General Be Abolished

Abolish Governor General

By Candia Dames

Nassau, The Bahamas

23 March 2006

Saying that the time has come for a Bahamian head of state to be elected by both Houses of Parliament, the Constitutional Commission is recommending that the English monarch no longer be head of state of The Bahamas and the office of the governor general be abolished.

The Commission also says in its preliminary report presented to Prime Minister Perry Christie at his Cable Beach office on Wednesday that The Bahamas should be a democratic parliamentary republic with the head of state being the president.

"Executive powers shall continue to be exercised by the cabinet with the head of government being the prime minister," the report recommends.

It also says the head of state should be a citizen of The Bahamas.

The Commission found it "curious" that there is no requirement for the holder of the office of governor general to be a citizen of The Bahamas.

"Because of the method of appointment of the governor general, it hardly seems logical that the person appointed to this office would be a non-Bahamian," the report says.  "To remove all doubt it should be declared that the governor general or head of state be a Bahamian citizen."

The report says it is apparent that the position of head of state of The Bahamas is not seen in reality to be the Queen of Great Britain, who constitutionally is also the Queen of The Bahamas.

It adds, "People appear not to be troubled by the concept and are apparently satisfied to regard the governor general, although wrongly, to be the head of state of The Bahamas.  The reaction to the proposition that the queen is constitutionally queen of The Bahamas was usually met with silence."

The Commission notes on page 12 of its preliminary report that the abolition of the English monarch as head of state of the Bahamas is part of the evolutionary process toward a truly peoples government, not one of the Queen’s dominions, but part of the Commonwealth.

The report says, "The Commission would wish the Bahamian people to focus on whether the position of a foreign monarch and one that is shared with many other countries, is reconcilable with the founding provisions which state The Bahamas shall be a ‘sovereign’ democratic state.

"We cannot on the one hand assert ourselves as a sovereign country and a free and independent actor in international affairs while relying on the legal fiction of ‘Her Majesty in Parliament’ and ‘Her Majesty’s Government’ in the ‘speech from the throne’ to give legitimacy to our government."

Additionally, the report says it is conceded that in an increasingly interdependent world the concept of sovereignty as it denotes a self-sufficient national territory is waning; sovereignty must denote an independent legal entity, where some supreme body has virtually unlimited capacity to make laws.

It notes that although the existence and validity and rules in the country’s legal system are determined by reference to a written constitution, those laws still require the participation of the ‘Queen in Parliament’ to be properly enacted.

"This is inconsistent with being a completely independent legal entity," the report says.

The report reveals that during its consultations on every inhabited Bahamian island, except three cays in the Exumas, there were mixed feelings about the retention of the Queen of England as Queen of The Bahamas and head of state of The Bahamas.

It notes that there was a significant number of persons who expressed no opinion on the institution of monarchy; there were others who were of the opinion that the status quo should remain, while others were of the view that this link to the British Monarchy was inconsistent with Bahamian independence and sovereignty and should be severed while preserving membership with the Commonwealth of which queen is symbolic head.

The Commission recommends that the provision of the Constitution that permits the chief justice and the president of the senate to serve as acting head of state should be removed to avoid a conflict of interest.

Deputies should be appointed from among eminent citizens to fill any vacancies of that office, the report says.