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Published on October 30th, 2009 | by Impunity Watch Archive

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Pitcairn Considers New Draft of Constitution

By Cindy Trinh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

ADAMSTOWN, Pitcairn – The Governor of Pitcairn, George Ferguson, announced that the island is considering a new draft of the constitution because there is a need for human rights to be “spelled out.” The current constitution was enacted in 1970. Since then, there has been a need for a document to include provisions regarding human rights. The new constitution would replace the 1970 constitution.

In June 2009, Britain called for the democratic reform of Pitcairn. The reform of Pitcairn was to bring the island in accordance with European standards of governance and human rights.

New management structures were implemented, such as the election of the mayor as the leading governmental authority on the island, and giving the mayor a council, which is divided into four managers. By updating the judicial structure of Pitcairn, Britain hoped this would give the citizens more rights that are guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, not everyone on the island agrees with the new structures. Some of the islanders voiced their dismay at the changes to the island’s governance.

In a commentary to the changes in Pitcairn’s governance, the director of the Pitcairn Islands Study Centre in California, claimed that “Britain wanted to give the impression it was giving its overseas territories greater freedom in deciding their own future, when it was not.”

He further stated: “They have too little freedom to live their lives according to the best interest of the island itself. Everything is looked at through the eyes of a Britisher who has been appointed from London, sits 4000 miles away from them and really doesn’t understand all the problems on this island.”

In response to the opposition of the reform, Ferguson now hopes to draft a constitution that will include a state of rights based on the European Union Convention on Human Rights. He also hopes to create a post of the Attorney General and to define the Governor’s role.

But the main focus of the new draft would be the “explicit setting out of people’s rights.” Ferguson hopes that the new constitution will serve as a document that “spells out” human rights.

In explaining why the new draft is needed, Ferguson stated: “We have recently done legislation very much with the principles of the Convention of Human Rights in mind, and we are pretty confident that we are broadly compatible with it. But it seems right to make the powers explicit, enable people to have the power to challenge legislation or administrative things in terms of those rights – make it an explicit power, rather than just self discipline on the part of the Government…”

For more information, please see:
Islands Business – New Pitcairn constitution to spell out human rights – 28 October, 2009

Pacific Islands News Association – New Pitcairn constitution to spell out human rights – 28 October, 2009

Radio New Zealand International – New Pitcairn constitution to spell out human rights – 27 October, 2009

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Radio Australia – Big changes in Pitcairn government – 19 June, 2009

The New Zealand Herald – Democracy reform for Pitcairn – 18 June, 2009

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