Our Readers' Opinions
May 14, 2004
The new SVG Constitution


by Dr. Richard A. B. Cox

As regards the allocation of a country’s resources, I accept the thesis that law is the concentrated expression of politics when the latter is understood to mean
policy first and foremost. And, that politics in turn is the concentrated expression of economics. {{more}}
In simple terms, it means that a government passes laws to give legal force to its policies determined in the first place by its economic objectives. Now if our economic aim is one of material betterment of our people as a whole, then this sell-out and giveaway of national resources to foreigners has got to stop. But once the government can continue to treat these resources like the private stocks and bonds of a Prime Minister, then the little sea water and sand we have left will soon be gone.
In SVG it is commonplace for politicians to justify their refusal to act pro bono publico as regards negotiations with these foreign “investors” by preaching that we need economic development and there is no other way. So they surrender our resources to be plundered and raped by these international henchmen, racist and unscrupulous exploiters. I say now, that any politician who promotes the prostituting of SVG through encouraging the sale and or control of our nationhood for a few jobs to wash dishes and change bed sheets in a hotel or $200,000 yearly contribution to the treasury, should never set foot in parliament. We can’t have leaders taking us down a road of national subservience, quasi-slavery and promoting tourism tantamount to camouflaged apartheid. But still for all, this has happened in the past and can happen again, so we must have laws to protect our patrimony and there must be consequences for breaking these laws. More than this, these must be foundation laws of the state; in short they must be in the new constitution.

My concrete proposal is for the new constitution to:

a) Make the sale to and/or control of islands, huge tracts of land and any other resources of national significance by foreigners illegal.
b) Make it incumbent upon the government of the day or any private citizen to take any proposal for extended use of an island and/or huge tracts of land by foreigners to parliament for approval, and this must be approved unanimously for it to take effect. In the case of a situation where the government has all the seats in parliament, then the issue must be decided by a referendum with at least 75 per cent of the eligible electorate voting in favour for it to take effect.
c) Stop the government of the day from bankrolling the expenses of foreigners under the guise that the latter are here to invest. It really does not make any sense that someone says he is investing in our country using our money. Are we that doltish that we need foreigners to teach us to squander our resources? How to bankrupt our country? I think that the Dr. Rolla lectures, tutorials and practical examples are more than enough in this regard.
d) Make it illegal for foreigners operating businesses in this country to make significant financial and/or contributions in other forms to political parties.
e) Ensure the creation of a standing parliamentary committee to review all major projects involving private foreigners and companies. This committee must also be charged with reviewing all existing major leases to foreigners.
f) All foreign investment must go beyond just giving Vincentains the opportunity to earn a basic minimum wage. They must contribute to the general development of the country. To refuse to demand this is to sell our country back into slavery and is not in keeping with the pledge we make in the national anthem, to keep SVG ever free.
I am not ashamed to state that I have always been opposed to foreigners owning and/or controlling large trunks of our tiny nation, a position I will never change. This is not because I am a communist or a xenophobic in any way, but simply because I have always been afraid of us becoming servants in our own land. We started out in ’79 with “flag independence”; the challenge now is economic betterment for all. This we are not going to achieve by the sale to foreigners of our patrimony. I have been “fortunate” to live 17 years of my life abroad and if it has taught me anything of real value, is that I should cherish every grain of sand that makes up my country.
The new constitution must first and foremost help ensure that we live in greater democracy, greater freedom and greater prosperity. To my mind these can only be guaranteed if we also have access to the wealth and resources of our country. It is folly to believe that a 15-member government cabinet knows it all as regards to who best should own, control and manage our resources. SVG is not Russia, Brazil, Canada or even Jamaica. We have neither size nor mineral wealth in abundance and we have already given away most of the little rocks we possessed. This is why this issue must be addressed from the level of the constitution; governments have been allowed to pauperise us for much too long now.
The people’s wealth must be in their hands and we must see to this immediately. If we fail to do so, there are going to be more Ottley Hall white elephants, more Tobago Cays sagas and more Terry Bynoes bawling blood in a desperate effort to save something for our children and grandchildren. Needless to say, his blood would be in vain.