Sticking a Pin…

Whose Constitution: The country to which we belong or the party we support?
For the purposes of Constitution Reform, the parties must ‘give’ the power back to the people. Otherwise, they make their own rules by which they wish to govern! Very wrong and unacceptable!

When Uncle Gairy went to Westminster in 1973, he did so in the context of British decolonisation policy for Africa and the Caribbean. British appetite for bananas and cane sugar and its thirst for profits could be satisfied without having to despatch a Governor from London!

By 1960, the English language was well-lodged; the European church was dominant; the English legal system was well- entrenched and English commerce, shipping, finance and insurance were tightly-fitted around the colonies.

Gairy’s mission, though visionary and mandated by his electoral victory of 1972, was essentially fuelled by personal ambition, resolve and urgings from the ‘cosmic’ realm! After all, the leader of the country must be able to purchase a piano without being harassed by Her Majesty’s Governor!

Grenada had been under Internal Self-Government since 1967, and so its political and administrative elites were yet very inexperienced. At that time, Grenada did not have a notable pool of intellectual strength capable of making waves in the field of public affairs. These factors, in addition to the above, explain, in part, the nature and ownership of the Constitution Gairy landed at Pearl’s Airport with in his briefcase.

Looking at its contents and design, and considering apparent omissions, it is clear that British will prevailed in most respects. So that the Grenada Constitution was an output in a policy more focused on re-settling British interests, than equipping Grenada to become a nation.

What Gairy brought home was Britain’s Constitution for Grenada! Hence, no one taught Grenadians anything about governance, democracy, development or government. In the circumstances, we have been groping in the dark for forty years and hurt at the hands of various political interests. These experiences have affected the shaping of our future.

Confusion! Confusion! Conspiracy theories galore over “public islands” and non-public islands! More conflict between political parties over term limits and fixed date! Then twists and turns involving Civil Society and the Trade Union Movement.

The concerned citizen has been taken aback by talk of lack of moral authority and not honouring court judgments on pensions for Public Officers who joined post-1983, though invalid and out of place. Sadly, Constitution Reform has provided an opportunity to present ourselves as believers in the dictatorship of the political parties!

If, in 1974, Gairy and his GULP did not own the Constitution of Grenada, by what logic, subterfuge or cosmic intervention has the said Constitution come to be owned by Keith Mitchell and his NNP in 2016? If that were to be the case, then many citizens would have very little rights and freedoms, if any!

The Grenada Constitution is for and about Grenada, not the political parties of the day! This perspective should be at the centre of our discourse, not slavish attachment to the political parties that we give support. Remember the NJM in the days of the Revolution? They made their own rules called “People’s Laws”! If the NNP and NDC are able to determine the reforms to be made to the Constitution, then they are effectively no different from the NJM!

Grenada, the nation, is a work in progress; a ‘going concern’. The Constitution must be seen as a route toward a preferred future. At this juncture, we are fixed with a ‘soft intention’ to reform the Constitution. It is executed through an elitist advisory model; misdirected as to fundamental purpose and worsened by wasted opportunities to reconcile and to shape new arrangements in the best interest of the nation.

Nonetheless, we go to referendum in about sixty days. It is an exercise in democracy, but is criticised over what is proposed and what has been left out. It is also causing unhappiness over the supply of public information to enable good decision-making. So we are treating with an imperfect offer which falls short of inspiring confidence.

Many people do not think that the politicians are committed to advancing the nation and fixing the problems that have kept us back for the last forty years! Nonetheless, it is good to vote!

When I go to express my position on proposals in the referendum, I will seek to apply a straight-forward test, as follows:

-Does the proposal take away any of my rights as a citizen?

-Does it negatively affect my property rights?

-Does it give more power to the PM or other authorities?

– Does it expand or diminish governance in the society?

– Does it strengthen or restrict/erode our democracy?

-Does it build-up the national identity of the Grenadian people?

Therefore, when I vote in favour of the CCJ, for example, I would not consider that I am giving a gift or benefit or advantage to the NNP or Francis Alexis. I will not be moved by political ‘tricks and traps’ or elevate party over nation.

Aspects of the referendum move the needle forward, but there is a considerable distance that we must go, beginning October 28, 2016. The new and additional work to be done should begin with pursuit of a national vision and require national consensus on ownership of the Constitution.

An open, people-centred process of contributing and decision-making is needed. The advisory model invites political conflict. Fundamentally, the Constitution is to be more than the ‘Supreme Law’, it must also be the ‘Supreme Nation Builder’, an important task for the future.

William Joseph

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