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Political Scientist to PCC: Be Bold! Draft the new Constitution!

The People’s Constitution Commission (PCC) Act does not mandate the PCC to draft the text of the proposed Constitution, but the PCC should do it anyway, Dr. Dylan Vernon, political scientist and former chair of the Political Reform Commission of 1999 wrote earlier this week.

Vernon, via his online “Time Come” blog entry for January 28th, wrote:

People who look for limitations instead of thinking boldly (especially some lawyers) will say that the PCC cannot itself present a new or revised constitution to government – because the Act does not say this specifically.  Nonsense! This is exactly what the PCC needs to do. The PCC is mandated to present a report to the National Assembly through the Prime Minister. Nothing stops the PCC from including a new constitution as part of its final report.

Political Scientist Dr. Dylan Vernon

The former ambassador’s words fall within a context of an ongoing debate as to whether the People’s Constitution Commission (PCC) could proceed to draft, at least, the “skeleton form” of the new Constitution.

“If the government sticks to its political commitment to have a referendum on a people’s constitution, what will be put to the people? The entire Report of the PCC? A list of what government selects from the Report? And who will write the new constitution after the referendum?  But if the PCC produces a new constitution, even in skeletal form, that is what should go to the people as the legitimate outcome of the public consultation process,” explained Vernon.

Readers may recall that in December 2022, The Reporter interviewed the then newly minted PCC Chairman Anthony Chanona who expressed concern about the PCC Act’s silence as to the end product of the constitutional reform process. “The law is broad,” Chanona admonished. “This is a concern because, at the end of this process, and after all resources have been expended, the product from the PCC should be beyond all doubt.”

At the time, Chanona had expressed concerns about who would ultimately draft the constitution and cautioned—like Vernon in his recent article—that leaving it to the political directorate is less than ideal.

“It should not be left in the realm of the political executive to interpret what is in the report. I think we could get into a political football and political mischief if that happens,” Chanona cautioned in that December 2022 interview with The Reporter.

For his part, Dr. Vernon, in his article, argued from a similar premise, using case-in-point examples from the Political Reform Commission of 1999.

“As I noted in Part I of this TIME COME series, of the 74 PRC [Political Reform Commission] recommendations on the Constitution, 47 called for specific amendments,” wrote Vernon. “Of these 47, 17 were fully enacted, 15 only in part and 15 not at all.”

He added, “Not surprisingly, the recommendations in the Final Report of the PRC that were not enacted or were diluted, had common features with those the political parties attempted to torpedo in the PRC: i.e., ones that called for systemic changes that would decentralise executive power, increase oversight and accountability, reform the electoral system and expand substantive socio-economic rights.”

Of note is that fact that Vernon does not appear to be calling for an amendment to the PCC Act. Instead, his call on the PCC is essentially to say that the Act, as it currently stands, does not preclude them from including a draft Constitution in their final report; therefore, they should submit a draft.

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