Full Disclosure
July 17, 2009
Enhance your independence through Constitutional Reform

A constitution is indeed an agreement of the people among themselves as to how they really wish to live their collective lives. All the radio programmes, newspaper articles, discussions at Little Tokyo, arguments for or against reform, both at home and abroad, will add up when as a people we vote in a referendum on the issue of constitutional reform.{{more}}

I was assured that the discourse was reaching home to our people, when last week my aunt from Barrouallie pulled me off the side of the road opposite the Post Office and asked me, “So you all really going to do away with the Queen”? The discussion continued, and I heard further sentiments espoused of her level of disgust that one day the Privy Council may have to go. These are the sentiments which will be raised as we seek to forge a home grown collective identity. This collective identity will be largely defined by the constitution, and will not merely be an inheritance. Rather, it is largely a product created by and perpetuated through a public discourse. Our SVG constitution is in the making!

Our national independence which was obtained on October 27th, 1979, was not simply an achievement of independence of our State, reflective of only a purely legalistic or political exercise. Making a transition from British rule with an intention to establish a form of sovereign self governance is a vital step. However, this sovereignty has to be acted upon by our people. Our quest to pursue a rigorous consultative process leading up to a referendum is evidence that we are taking ownership of our sovereignty.

Constitutional change is inevitable. We have realised that change is not only simply necessary, it is good politics for the advancement of our people. Constitutional reform is a natural response by our people to the need to perpetuate change. The realities we face as a people are not static, but are ever changing to accommodate the social and political evolution of the Vincentian man and woman. It is a sign that we are a progressive people when we have been able not only to see the need for constitutional reform but we have embarked as a people on achieving this noble task.

Our effort as a people to open full national debate on the issues arising in the proposed constitution has been characterised by an extremely high level of openness and transparency. It is particularly important to note this since, in reference to Dr. Francis Alexis in his work, “Changing Caribbean Constitutions”, he advised that “Generally, the constitutional changes so far made in the Caribbean have not been based on preparatory work done by a public body inquiring into the kind of Constitution reform needed, meeting with the public, obtaining the views of the public, and basing proposals for reform on such interchange with the public.”

Indeed the debate is important since it allows for the type of human development which emanates from a searching of the self and a commensurate need to uplift the self by projecting that inner energy necessary for personal, community and national development. Our independence must, therefore, bring out the passion for nation building. It is very important that we continue to maintain a high level of professionalism in our interaction, so that we can get the most from our dialogue.

Chapter (II) of the proposed Constitution 2009 outlines the Guiding Principles of State Policy. These series of enhancements include the right to work; the right to health; protection of children, the elderly and disabled and the environment, equality for women and men and for children born out of wedlock. These enhancements will be discussed in turn in future articles.

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines the Queen remains the titular head of state, although represented by His Excellency the Governor-General. Beyond the symbolic, albeit significant relationship with the British crown, many have for years questioned if our constitutions and the political systems in the region really do define and adequately reflect the unique needs of the Caribbean and address the challenges of the countries in this region. The constitutional reform movements and the broader discussion on political reform are underlining the impetus to rethink whether the system of government inherited from Great Britain remains viable. I support constitutional reform!.

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator, now serving as Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture etc.