The Constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines (“SVG’s Constitution”) has what is known as a preamble. This preamble is located before the Bill of Rights. Amongst other things, it states the following:
“WHEREAS the Peoples of the Islands of Saint Vincent, who are known as Vincentians –
(a) have affirmed that the Nation is founded on the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man;
(b) desire that their society be so ordered as to express their recognition of the principles of democracy, free institutions, social justice and equality before the law;
(c) realise that the maintenance of human dignity presupposes safeguarding the rights of privacy of family life, of property and the fostering of the pursuit of just economic rewards for labor;
(d) desire that their Constitution should enshrine the above mentioned freedoms, principles and ideals;”
As seen above, the preamble begins with “WHEREAS the Peoples of the island of Saint Vincent, who are known as Vincentians”. This lets us know from the beginning that what follows is supposed to be the moral aspirations and values of Vincentians. However, this is questionable, since some may argue that SVG’s Constitution was basically given to us by the British, without much input from Vincentians.
Our moral aspirations and values as stated in the preamble of SVG’s Constitution include belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man, recognition of the principles of democracy, free institutions, social justice, and equality before the law, safeguarding the rights of privacy of family life, property, and just economic rewards for labor.
Some of the beforementioned moral aspirations and values are connected to human rights or are specific human rights themselves. We see mention of the concept of human dignity, which is a fundamental foundation of all human rights, and in some countries, it is understood to be an enforceable free-standing right on its own.
Then equality before the law is mentioned. All human beings are indeed born equal in dignity and rights and should be free from unjust discrimination. The right to equality or non-discrimination is a recognized enforceable and free-standing right. In SVG, under section 13, we have a right to protection from discrimination based on several expressly listed grounds.
Moreover, specific mention is made of the right to privacy of family life and property. The right to privacy of family life is not expressly mentioned in the detailed sections of the Bill of Rights of SVG’s Constitution. It is however mentioned again in the opening section, section 1, to the Bill of Rights in SVG’s Constitution.
Also mentioned is “the fostering of the pursuit of just economic rewards for labor”. The right to work is one of the rights which is commonly classed under social, economic, and cultural rights, also known as second generation human rights. And indeed, if persons work they should be properly remunerated for their hard labor and be afforded various protections concerning the right to work.
The preamble in SVG’s Constitution, though important, is unenforceable. It is not justiciable. It merely provides the best reflection of the moral aspirations and values of Vincentians.
Today, I encourage us to read the preamble in SVG’s Constitution so that we can know the contents thereof.
Author: Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian Barrister-at-law and Solicitor. He is also the President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He can be contacted via email at [email protected]