National Focus

Historic session

by: Sharell Lockhart, News Reporter

The Sir Charles Hayward Library in partnership with the Ministry for Grand Bahama and Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture hosted the first ever Constitutional Commission Committee Senior High School Education Forum on Friday, March 13.

The forum, designed to educate students on The Bahamas Constitution allowed them to receive clarity on the four proposed Constitutional Reform Bills/Amendments to Articles 8 and 9, Article 10, Article 14 and Article 26.

Carla Brown-Roker, Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture Youth Coordinator revealed, "When the Constitutional Commission Committee contacted me regarding conducting a series of lectures on Grand Bahama, I spoke with Sir Charles Hayward Executive Director Geneva Rutherford suggesting that high school seniors across the island be allowed to come in and have the Commission Educators, which includes Justice Ruby Nottage, Hon. Theresa Moxey-Ingraham and Dr. Brandace Duncanson present to them.

" Of course Mrs. Rutherford was thrilled with the idea especially as we were taking this ongoing public forum/lecture to another level by educating our young people the future of this nation, who many of them would be directly impacted by the proposed constitutional amendments." 

Gaining the partnership and support of the Ministry for Grand Bahama particularly, Dr. Joneth Edden as well as principals of the senior high schools across Grand Bahama in this initiative proved to be the icing on the cake, the youth coordinator exclaimed.

The students would now have an opportunity to be educated by the Constitutional Commission Committee in an intimate session, which would equip them with the knowledge they needed as it relates knowing their rights are currently, looking at the outdated information in the constitution and seeing how they can now play a role in making informed decisions as future voters in this country and the upcoming Constitutional Referendum, said Brown-Roker.

Revealing the library was happy to be involved in the educational forum, Rutherford noted the participating students are between the ages of 16 and 18 years old, continue to be keenly interested in what is happening in their lives and that of The Bahamas and understand that the proposed Constitutional Reform would directly affect many of them.

" Again the Sir Charles Hayward Library is pleased to be involved in this process especially when you look at the future of this nation, who better to educate than our young people?

" All of them must be educated on The Bahamas Constitution as they will be the ones to carry the country forward and I must commended the Constitutional Commission Committee for their level of presentation and ensuring the participating students as well as the schools receive copies of all 72 Proposed Constitutional Amendments even though in this session, presentations are being made on the four proposed Bill Amendments to Articles 8 and 9, Article 10, Article 14 and Article 26,"  said Rutherford.

The library executive director is hopeful that the information provided to the students would incite their interest in committing the time to read in the Bahamas Constitution in its entirety, understand the supreme law of The Bahamas and become motivated to get involved in national discussions now and in the future.

These young people would be voting in future referendums and general elections and we cannot sit back and allow our country to move on at its own steam, said Rutherford, who noted, "These students play a pivotal role in getting involved and helping the country move forward in a way that is fair and beneficial to all and it begins by educating them in such forums." 

Congratulating the Ministry for Grand Bahama, the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture and the Sir Charles Hayward Library for partnering to host the first ever Constitutional Commission Committee Senior High School Education Forum was Justice Nottage.

She too agreed that he senior high school students are the future of generation of The Bahamas and in fact, many of them would be 18 years old in the next six months and would be eligible voters in future referendums as well as the nation's next general election.

Noting that is was therefore imperative that the students have a clear understanding as to the proposed amendments to the Bahamas Constitution as it relates to Articles 8 and 9, Article 10, Article 14 and Article 26, which concerns equal treatment under the law.

" They need to be educated on what these amendments represent especially as they ask to allow a child born abroad to obtain Bahamian citizenship from either his Bahamian father or mother.

" Also to allow the foreign spouse of a Bahamian woman to obtain Bahamian citizenship in the same manner as a foreign spouse of a Bahamian man; as well as to allow an unmarried father to pass citizenship to his child born out of wedlock and finally, to make it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of sex, being male or female.

" If we can make sure that the young people at this stage understand what these Constitutional Amendments represent not only would we be educating our children about our Constitution but also our population, as each of these students represent a family in Grand Bahama, who would now be more readily informed,"  said Justice Nottage.

Expressing hope that the Constitutional Commission Committee Senior High School Education Forum would also be implemented in schools across New Providence too, Justice Nottage also took a moment to explain the difference between a Constitutional Referendum and an Advisory Referendum.

She noted some students came to the session with preconceived thoughts that the forum would not matter because the government did not adhere to the advice of the people during the Gaming Referendum, which As Hon. Theresa Moxey-Ingraham revealed was advisory.

" There is a difference in the mandate of a Constitutional Referendum as oppose to an Advisory Referendum.

" In fact, the Hon. Theresa Moxey-Ingraham drew the conclusion that the Gaming Advisory Referendum was simply asking for advice.

" During that particular referendum the population was asked to vote 'yes' or 'no' and no matter the answer, Government could have rejected or accepted it.

" However, when it comes to a Constitutional Referendum, this is dictated by our constitution which is our supreme law and is a legal mandate.

" Therefore, any government be them PLP, FNM or anything else must obey it so unlike an Advisory Referendum, so this matters and being involved in this education forum matters,"  she said.

Justice Nottage went onto note that if the Constitutional Referendum is successful in amending the constitution, the government must pay attention to it as it cannot be pushed to the side and if any of the Bills fail, they cannot lift them up again.

The government must respect the Constitutional Referendum whatever is the result, as it matters, its mandatory and its obligatory, said Justice Nottage.

" I believe the Hon. Theresa Moxey-Ingraham was right in pointing this out because she also noted that in 2002, when the people spoke during a Constitutional Referendum their decision was it and had to be respected.

" Now we are asking the people to speak again and it would either be yes or not but that is not for the Constitutional Commission Committee to say as we are only in our assigned position educating the populous.

" We are clarifying and answering any questions that our countrymen need to understand and in that vein we are trying to do the best job we can and we are definitely enjoying being with the young people especially in this type of educational session setting so they can be informed as well,"  Justice Nottage.

Constitutional Commission Committee forums began on Thursday March 12 in the Eight Mile Rock community, all forums are open to the public and would continue Wednesday March 18th through Friday March 20th at venues across Grand Bahama.


Published  Monday, March 16, 2015

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