Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris tabled for its second reading the Constitution of Saint Christopher and Nevis (Tenure of Office of Prime Minister) (Amendment) Bill, 2019
shortly after midday on Thursday, November 28th
in the St. Kitts-Nevis National Assembly.
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis said, “This bill is an historic one. It is an historic bill because it represents the first real attempt to bring constitutional change since the Independence Constitutional Order of 1983. Many before us have talked about constitutional reform and they did nothing, not even when they had a sufficiency of Representatives to effect constitutional change.”
Prime Minister Harris added: “Today, Team Unity makes history in being the first to actually propose real and substantive change to the Constitution of 1983. This is an historic bill because today the smallest country, indeed the smallest nation state in the Americas, is leading on fundamental matters of governance – the tenure of office of the head of government.”
The Team Unity Government is seeking to amend Section 52 of the Constitution. The bill proposes the insertion of two new subsections, stating in 52 (2) A that, “Notwithstanding subsection 52 (2), a Representative shall not hold office as Prime Minister for more than two terms, whether or not served consecutively” and stating in 52 (2) (B) that, “In this section, a ‘term’ refers to the period provided for in section 31 of the Constitution.” Section 31 is concerned with the Tenure of Office of Representatives and Senators.
During his presentation this afternoon, Prime Minister Harris said the United States of America – long regarded as the beacon of democracy – has a constitutional term-limit amendment (the 22nd Amendment) for election to the office of President of the United States.
On November 5th, 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt broke the long-held precedent (dating back to when the first President, George Washington, declined to run for a third term) of U.S. Presidents only serving up to two terms when he became the first to be elected to a third term. He would go on to win even another term, taking office again on January 20th, 1945 before dying just 11 weeks into his fourth term. In 1947, the U.S. Congress passed the 22nd Amendment and it was ratified in 1951, limiting an elected President to two terms in office, a total of eight years.
Today, in the St. Kitts-Nevis National Assembly before the proceedings were adjourned until 2:00pm, Prime Minister Harris made the compelling argument that establishing fixed leadership terms for the holder of the office of Prime Minister would promote democracy by furthering succession planning and ensuring that the head of government serves the will of the people rather than only the interests of a few.
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis stressed the importance of looking “beyond the prism of party confines.” This, Prime Minister Harris said, would help to build a better St. Kitts and Nevis by strengthening overall governance, thereby inspiring people’s confidence in the country’s systems of checks and balances and guarding against political stagnation, corruption and abuse of power.