| President asks for start on work to update Constitution - 05.04.2010
President James Michel has asked the attorney-general to start redrafting various laws that pre-date our Constitution, as well as to begin the work needed to update certain sections of the Constitution.
This follows the presentation of the review of the Constitution to the President by the Constitutional Review Committee chairman Francis Chang-Sam earlier this year.
Attorney-general Ronny Govinden has explained that a two-track approach will be followed.
Firstly, there are a number of laws that need to be updated or clarified in the light of the provisions of the Constitution. He said in many cases there is a general consensus on the need for this update, and his office will submit the proposed amendments to the National Assembly over the course of this year. In other cases, further debate at national level may be required.
Secondly, many of the recommendations of the committee concern the content of the Constitution itself. As the procedures to modify the Constitution involve either a two-thirds majority in the assembly, or in some cases a referendum, there is a need to ensure that proposed changes are given further consultation and discussion so they meet the wishes of the people.
The Office of the President made the review report public on its website from Thursday and is inviting members of the public to make their suggestions and contributions in writing to the attorney-general.
The report can be consulted at www.statehouse.gov.sc and written submissions should be addressed to the Attorney-General, National House, PO Box 58, Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles.
The attorney-general will compile the suggestions in the context of the report and propose a “document for discussion” at a wider level.
As part of the process, he will carry out a national consultation exercise in 2011 on the basis of this document, in line with the recommendation of the report that the public at large be given more opportunity to comment on proposed changes and amendments.
The President has repeated his thanks to the members of the review committee for their diligence in producing the report, which is a key means of strengthening the institutions of the Republic.
“The Constitution is the voice of our nation, and it is our responsibility as a nation to ensure that we uphold its principles in all that we do,” added Mr Michel.
“The process of review is one which enhances our democratic values and allows the Seychellois people to take part in shaping the laws that govern us,” he said.
In an interview, attorney general Ronny Govinden on Thursday urged members of the public to use the chance and take part in the process to update the laws.
“In redrafting the laws we will consider reviewing the laws which the committee that has been set up decides are contrary to certain constitutional articles,” Mr Govinden said.
He said there are parts of the law that are either not consistent with other laws or incomplete, for example where such open words as “reasonable time” are used which are open to different interpretations.
The committee will go through the drafting process and consult the necessary bodies and agencies dealing with those laws on a day-to-day basis to determine the extent to which those laws will be changed.
Mr Govinden said the second stage will involve amendment of the Constitution itself.
“Given that the Constitution was approved by the public through a referendum, we believe there has to be consultation so we are welcoming public opinion in any form whatsoever to be sent to the AG’s office.
“People need to realise that these laws will affect their rights so they should let us have their opinions sent to us in writing.
“From there, once these opinions are filed we will make a working document using these opinions. We will then consider to what extent the working document should be implemented and depending on whether it will be in the national interest to do so, the decision will be taken as to whether to amend given parts of the law.”
He said after that the National Assembly will take part in the adoption of the laws following which the President will approve them.
“Depending on whether or not we decide to amend the chapters concerning the rights, for example, or text that has to do with amending the Constitution itself, there may be a need to have a referendum seeking the consent of 60% of the electorate.”
Mr Govinden said the need for us to take part in the process is so important that he cannot overemphasize it.
“This is not something that happens every year but maybe every 15-20 years and it needs the public to take part.
Beside how long it takes, the very fundamental nature of the law makes it necessary for us to take part because it affects people’s personal lives.
“It affects your movement, freedom of speech, political decisions and other aspects, so we should all be very proactive in this exercise otherwise you could lose out,” he said.
He said if people miss the chance to take part now the next time their opinions might be put forward is in the National Assembly when and if the individuals’ desired draft laws reach there.
“But it all depends. If you do not put in your contribution now your opinion may not be included when by the time the draft goes for enactment into law. You have to take a decision now for your views to be included.”