CRC Chair says no more time for public consultations, “It is now the business of the House”.

The Chair of the Fono Ekepule’s Constitution Review Committee (CRC) Hon. O’love Jacobsen says that the part for the public consultations in the process to review the constitution is done. It is now the business of the House.

Jacobsen was on News of the Week radio programme on Friday last week and said that the members of parliament especially the village MPs were given 13 weeks to discuss what their constituencies want to be reviewed or changed in the constitution.

Hon. Jacobsen said that in February this year, it was decided that the review will only focus on the first two parts of the constitution and the public was given time to provide their submissions by the end of April. This deadline was extended to the 3rd of May when the committee received only 36 submissions. From those submissions the committee tabled this CRC report to the Fono Ekepule.

CRC-Chairpersons-Report-to-Assembly_02nd-June-2021

BCN new obtained a copy of the report which lacked clarity on the substantial issues raised through the submissions and failed to articulate the recommendations of the committee in a manner expected of a parliamentary select committee report. Furthermore, the majority of the committee recommendations were to maintain the status quo and ask the Assembly to decide on most of their nine priorities. Jacobsen told BCN news that she takes full responsibility for the report.

At the last sitting of the Fono, the member from Lakepa John Opo Tiakia and Common Roll member Terry Coe argued to allow more time for public consultations on the report of the Committee. BCN news reported last week that Hon. Jacobsen had at that meeting invited the members to take the report to their constituencies for further discussions.

However, the Chairperson of the Fono Ekepule select committee on the review of the 1974 constitution said that BCN reported incorrectly her remarks at the last sitting, saying she did not say that the MPs can take the report containing the nine priorities to their constituencies for further consultations. Hon. Jacobsen on radio said the time for public consultations is over, “It (the report) is now the business of the House”.

When asked on radio if she felt there was enough public interest in the undertaking to review the constitution, Hon. Jacobsen paused before saying “No”. She explained that perhaps the lack of public interest is because the people feel that this should be discussed by their elected representatives.

The committee’s report on the 9 priorities for consideration is on the Order Paper of today’s sitting of the Fono Ekepule.

However, Hon. Jacobsen says that given today’s meeting is also to discuss the final reading of the government’s budget she has spoken to the Speaker of the Fono, that if there is not enough time today, to call another meeting to discuss the findings of the Constitution review committee at a later date.

The majority of the island’s legislators are members of this constitution committee of 14 members with two advisors in former minister Billy Talagi and lawyer Sina Hekau. The committee is also supported by legal advisors from the Crown Law office.

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