By Lorraine Mendez
There is still a stand-off between Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte and Opposition Leader Mark Golding in relation to the naming of members to the Constitutional Reform Committee.
Minister Malahoo Forte and Mr. Golding butted heads in Parliament on Tuesday, with Mr. Golding insisting that he needed clarity on issues relating to the proposed changes to the Constitution.
But Minister Malahoo Forte countered that she sent a response to the Leader of the Opposition in a letter dated January 16, 2023, in which she outlined that the proposed Constitutional Reform Committee would build on the work of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional and Electoral Reform and the Constitutional Commission, whose report was published in 1995.
"We have made it clear that every change to be pursued will be fully disclosed and collaboratively worked on with the assistance of the Constitutional Reform Committee, guided by research, consultation and expert advice," she said.
"Phase two of the work will focus on the ordinarily entrenched provisions of the Constitution, which include the Charter and also the matter of our final court," the minister added.
She told the House that it was "no secret" that the government signalled its intention to revisit, among other things, Section 20 of the Constitution to "provide an up-to-date emergency powers framework".
Mrs Malahoo Forte said the government has set a timeline for the Constitutional Reform Committee to begin deliberations this month and continue into 2024, after which a referendum will be held.
Among other objectives, the committee is being established to ensure Jamaica's smooth transition to a republic.
In response, Opposition Leader Mark Golding said he had been disrespected by Minister Malahoo Forte during her presentation in the House of Representatives on January 10.
He suggested both he and the minister "stop this public cass-cass", insisting he had not come to Parliament on Tuesday make a statement.
But Mr. Golding accused the minister of berating him "for the second time in two weeks" because he wrote requesting full disclosure on the government's intention in relation to amending the Charter of Rights as well as the Constitution, as it relates to deeply entrenched provisions that require a referendum.
The opposition leader maintained that he needed to know the answers to these question in advance.
After further back and forth between Mr. Golding and Minister Malahoo Forte, both members agreed to meet privately to continue the discussions.