Making a constitution work

At the above ‘Consultation,’ attorney Ruggles Ferguson presented on ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’. He made the observation that a constitution is a living document and that people should not sit back and groan and complain. It is the people who must take action to ensure that it works (my wording). In short, the constitution is just a confluence of words on paper, unless people have the will, purity of purpose and the strength of character to implement it.

A very widespread remark is that Prime Ministers have too much power. This may be so, but in instances of the powers to make recommendations for appointments to certain positions or Offices to the Governor General (somebody has to do it), invariably, these persons shall, ‘in the exercise of their functions under the Constitution, not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority’.

They who are weak, weakens the constitution when they fail to make fair and reasonable decisions, independently.

The Constitution provides many checks and balances, if persons who occupy positions of authority are willing to obey and implement the rules. Is the failure to set up Local Government in Carriacou, over the last forty years, a demonstration of mismanagement and disrespect for the Constitution?

If it is true that our present constitution was disrespected and not implemented to our detriment, why should one believe that another with a plethora of amendments and additions will make any difference? Can we imagine how different our state could have been if these seemingly helpful rules were implemented?

All of the above leads me to the conclusion that a Constitution in a democracy works only where the following pillars of support are entrenched:

(i) Leaders who are willing to obey and implement its edicts

(ii) A fiercely independent, enquiring press (independent content)

(iii) A very strong, vigilant people

(iv) Mechanisms to hold those in authorities, responsible

It is not enough to say that the fact that this constitution is forty years old is reason enough to change it. To me, this statement is like saying that the pyramids of Egypt and other Wonders and Heritage of the world, or people of a certain age should be terminated.

To say also that ‘if we are the first to be called (whatever), ‘so be it’ is to show either extreme ignorance or a lack of appreciation for our very tumultuous past, our history. Many of our firsts have been very unsavory.

It has been argued that that the Parliamentary system of government coupled with copious powers of a Prime Minister are major obstacles. Again, the observation is made that a similar system has worked relatively well in Canada, Australia, Barbados among others, over the years; why not in Grenada?

I go back to Ruggles Ferguson,’ It is people who must make a constitution work’ for them.

I commend the strategists of this GCR for putting forth a very smart strategy that is certain to elicit the required amount of ‘YES’ votes and a win for all items on these referenda.

GCR may also be the ‘first’ to contain items in line with new world trends. To some, this is chance at making history or a legacy opportunity. Be reminded that constitutions are not changed every day. You do not get another chance to revert that easily, if you are later dissatisfied with the changes already made.

Whatever the outcome, every effort must be made to demonstrate that nothing was done flippantly; to demonstrate that this exercise was based in sobriety, maturity, deep thought, been well informed and clarity.

It must transcend selfishness, personality and other emotive issues. As Dr. Joseph said, ‘May God help us!

Smith Roberts

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