NORTHERN MARIANAS NEEDS ELECTED ATTORNEY GENERAL: HOFSCHNEIDER

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By Annie Ruth C. Sabangan Variety News Staff

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 27, 2002 – Marianas Variety)--House Speaker Heinz S. Hofschneider says the CNMI should have an elected attorney general who will not be under the jurisdiction of the administration.

Hofschneider, at the same time, said some "gray areas" in the Constitution should be clarified, specifically the provisions governing expenditure of public funds that are at times bent or arbitrarily applied to suit a particular purpose.

"Perhaps it’s time to raise the issue again of having an elected AG. We’ve raised that during the 1995 Constitutional Convention and I think that given the challenges of local self-government and the complexity that arises from a close-knit social and political fabric, we may need an elected AG," said Hofschneider.

Structural changes

Having an independent and elected AG, according to the speaker, necessitates "some structural changes in the political system."

"Considering the convoluted approaches (of governance), I think we have no choice but to (have) a strong and independent AG’s office," he said.

On the issue of clarifying some provisions in the Constitution, Hofschneider said while some provisions "should not to be touched," there are some areas that are "ambiguous." These had been arbitrarily applied by the current and previous administrations, he said.

The "most wonderful English word" in the Constitution— "may"—has been abused, the speaker said.

"Whenever the Constitution speaks of ‘may’ and somebody wants to know if something can be permitted, the answer depends on which side of the street you are standing on. The word ‘may’ sometimes gets us into trouble," he said.

The word "shall," on the other hand, "is very clear and should be used instead," the speaker said.

Deficit spending

The constitutional provisions on the balanced budget and liquidating the budget deficit should be made clearer, Hofschneider said.

He said specific constitutional guidelines should be established, particularly those relating to government spending.

"Certain things are clear; certain things are not. So what I’m trying to say is that it’s time we address not only AGO but these provisions. There has to be a better and clearer language in place," he said.

 

CNMI ATTORNEY GENERAL TORRES RESIGNS DUE TO POLICY ISSUES

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 27, 2002 – Radio Australia)---Attorney General Robert Torres has resigned due to policy differences with the seven-month-old administration of Governor Juan Babauta.

The Attorney General's resignation is the latest in a series of controversies involving the administration as it copes with the region's economic slump, the government's financial problems and the complaints of disgruntled former supporters.

Considered one of Mr. Babauta's closest and most trusted advisers, Mr. Torres was the first Cabinet official appointed by the Governor.

It's believed Mr. Torres was disappointed that the Governor would not sign the contract for an independent counsel.

The Attorney General wanted to hire an independent counsel to look into the salary cap controversy involving governor appointees.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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