Our Readers' Opinions
November 10, 2006

Yes to a Republic… No to Monarch!

It is time for a change from Parliamentary Democracy

EDITOR: Two weeks ago this nation commemorated its 27th birth date of National Independence. Areas of nation-development were highlighted by many persons. Strengths and weaknesses were pointed out by those involved, in one way or the other, in nation-building.

While all the above is necessary in evaluating an independent nation, we must be mindful that prosperity (spiritual and otherwise) flourishes in an environment where individuals enjoy their inviolable and inalienable Rights (given to them by the Great Legislator of the universe), and individuals’ personal freedoms that facilitate the exercise of Rights.{{more}} These personal freedoms are: Freedom of Thought, Freedom of Belief and Freedom of Expression. Every effort necessary must be taken by individuals and governments to ensure that these Rights and Freedoms are secured, respected, protected and strengthened. It is in this regard that we call upon every right-thinking and freedom-loving Vincentian-leaders, legislators, and constitutional reformers to consider the great benefits of a Republic or the values of Republicanism.

We are grateful to God and we express appreciation towards all the men who were instrumental in adopting our present Constitution which guarantees the protection of rights and freedoms of the citizens. However, in this imperfect world there is always room for improvement and it is in this light that we must show further maturity as an independent nation, in our understanding and appreciation of the preservation of rights and freedom. We must show this noble regard to the point where we adopt the best system of government suitable to a progressive country and to a people who tremendously value the benefits of preservation of fundamental rights, namely, right to religious liberty, right to life and right to private property. Republicanism is this best suited form of government. It ensures sacred regards for the rights of man, recognizing that rights originate from God and not from man, man’s laws, nature nor by the will of the majority. In other words, Rights ought to be correctly viewed as inalienable (not originating from man or creation) and inviolable (not to be transgressed or annulled).

“A government of laws and not of men” is the ideal of any independent state. No other form of Government has achieved such an ideal as one which embraces republican values. The arms of this government will not only operate with primary sacred regard for our God-ordained rights and freedoms, but the structure of our legislature will be so organized as to fully filter and prevent all anti-right bills from bearing the stamp of approval at the expense of the sovereign few.

An expansion of our house is needed to embrace a new and independent group of men and women to sit in total isolation working together as representatives of the rights of our citizens in an atmosphere free of the poison of partisan influences, manifestos and selfish goals is seriously needed. We may call this body our Senate vested with necessary powers to pass, reject or amend any proposed law that comes before them from our parliament for their deliberations. Then we can pride ourselves as having a legislature that seeks the interest of both the majority and minorities with the rights of citizens and the rule of law as its basis. It is time for us to embrace these values and have them reflected in our constitution.

The principal embarrassment still borne by our independent state in our embrace of a monarchial representative must now be made a ‘historical mistake corrected’. A people joyously professing self-governance, yet with their legislative power still vested in a Governor General-the representative of a queen- is doing nothing less than inflicting damage to their very own psyches. Why should the representative of the British monarch be the final signatory to laws of a self-governing people? Isn’t power to enact laws while governing, evidence of true self-government? Why should a foreign monarch be our head of state-did we elect her to be? An elected president in a new republic should be a great symbol of our political maturity after gaining independence.

The concept of a Republic is not one of dictatorship and authoritarianism. The public is re-made or re-organized on a more just and equitable system. The Rights of majorities AND minorities are protected. This system allows for more checks and balances with government defined authority, power and limits. It is not God’s intention for men to rule the consciences of their fellowmen, for this only breeds hypocrisy and tyranny as is evident throughout history where there are numerous cases of wars, crimes and atrocities resulting from the violation of Rights of man. One cannot overemphasize the need to understand the role of government, which is to respect and protect the basic Rights of man by good governance and legislation fostering a public climate of respect for Rights and ensuring the Freedoms of the people. Government is put into political office to serve the people and derives its just authority from the consent of the governed. In reference to, and support of, a Republic Sir Ellis Clarke (1st President of TNT 1979) says ‘…a firm enduring foundation for the preservation of the rights and freedoms we so happily enjoy.’

In our society, there is dire need for education and a deepened consciousness in regard to respect of Rights and Freedoms to be implanted in the minds of our citizens. Undoubtedly, this will curb violence and crime which are so prevalent in our society. For, when people commit crimes such as murders and thefts, it is an outward manifestation of their inward disregard for the God-given rights of their fellowmen. The Government must enter a rights-campaign among the citizenship. This is the best mechanism in our war against crime, and where better to begin than in our pre, primary and secondary schools.

Let our thoughts on independence be thoughts of consideration towards the best form of Government that will guarantee the protection of the rights of all citizens. Let us begin the educational drive in our own realm on the nature of a Republican form of Government, our rights, freedoms and their protection under law. Let us examine the benefits of a republican form of Government and its importance for the protection of our right as citizens. Let us reorganize our legislature to reflect our core value and sacred regard for the rights of all. It is time for a change from Parliamentary Democracy, it is time to embrace and say yes to a republic of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Ann Marie John

Shefflorn Ballantyne