Jamaican government asserts referendum will not be combined with elections

July 30 , 2023 -The Jamaican government has made clear it will not be merging the upcoming referendum regarding the nation’s possible transition to a Republic with the forthcoming Local Government or General Elections.

The announcement was made by Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, while speaking at the constitutional reform town hall at St. Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) in Santa Cruz on July 26th.

Minister Malahoo Forte underscored the importance of preventing any intermingling with the elections due to the highly competitive nature of the political arena.

Minister Malahoo Forte’s declaration on separating processes

She asserted that the Referendum deserves an impartial and equitable procedure that can uphold its own legitimacy, maintaining its integrity separate from the general elections.

“The wisdom is that we wouldn’t want this Referendum, especially seeing it’s the first one that we’re going to hold in independent Jamaica, to be mixed up with [the elections],”  Malahoo Forte said.

“The current Constitution contemplated all of this and it’s quite permissible to have the Referendum in another Parliament. So, we can pass the law in this Parliament and carry the Referendum over to the next Parliament,” she further said.

The role of public education and consultation in the referendum

The Minister indicated that this strategy would afford ample time for constitutional reform and public education, enabling citizens to make well-informed choices during the Referendum.

While the Government is keen on presenting the Bill in the present Parliament, Minister Malahoo Forte highlighted that the timeline hinges on the conclusion of the consultations and public education efforts.

The Minister emphasized the necessity of not hastening the process to ensure that the populace is thoroughly informed about the intended constitutional alterations.

“It’s going to require a lot of maturity and a mature conversation between the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and the Opposition’s People’s National Party. It would be a travesty if we went to the people competing whilst we are on the issue of abolishing King Charles the Third as our Head of State,”  Malahoo Forte said.

The phases of constitutional reform

In addition to ending the constitutional monarchy and founding the office of the president, the initial phase of the constitutional reform process seeks to address the prolongation of the life of Parliament and the criteria for eligibility of parliamentary members.

The second phase is set to handle matters concerning rights and several other significant topics.

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