Our Readers' Opinions
August 24, 2007

We the people are all members of Civil Society


EDITOR: As the debate rages on regarding the recent proposals by the Constitutional Review Commission to include: “Members of Civil Society” and a so-called “Council of Elders” in parliament under a revised Constitution. I must again, express my absolute objection on both counts.{{more}} In my article a few weeks ago on the subject of the debate on the Revised Final Report, I parenthetically stated my objection. I wish here to reiterate and expatiate.

First off, I find it very hard to believe that these ideas were really gleaned from the bowels of the majority of the masses during the consultation period locally and in the Diaspora. I have an intuitive suspicion that these ideas represent the wishes of some members of the commission and a minority of their ilk. The types who like to crown themselves “Kings” and “Queens”. Who are of the bourgeoisie mentality; that deem themselves to be in the “upper echelon” of society and have no use for the rest of us mere mortals, except insofar as they can devise ways and means to “Lord” over us.

At a time when we seek to get rid of archaic colonial trappings. Overwhelmingly, the public is in favor of divesting ourselves of the monarchy as head of state. Yet they want to adopt a system akin to the colonial parliamentary caste system that obtains in England, namely: “The Lords Spiritual” (NACE), “Lords Temporal” (Civil Society) and “The Commons” (Elected Parliamentarians) or as in France with their system of “The Clergy” (NACE), “The Nobles” (Civil Society), and “The Commons” (Elected Parliamentarians) – specimens of the rest of us, derogatory – “Commoners”.

Under such a caste system, the persons ‘we the people’ elect to represent us would wind up in a subordinate, subjective role, playing second fiddle to these self-appointed theocrats and aristocrats – the superior, the benevolent oligarchy or so-called “conscience” of the parliament. To what end?

Of course “Civil Society”, (and we are all members of civil society), has a role in the formulations of rules and laws; of good governance. But why do they need a seat in the parliament to make their contributions? Contributions that they may very well make as members of whatever special interest group they represent by lobbying to make their representations before the elected parliament, whether at committee stage or at the actual sitting of the house as a whole.

In an attempt to come to a compromise, Dr. Gonsalves has recently proposed that representatives of these special interest groups be afforded the privilege of participating in debates in the house. Under his proposal, they would not have the right to vote on bills. While I respect Dr. Gonsalves’, being the quintessential bridge builder, proposal to acquiesce and meet them halfway; I maintain that their participation ought to be limited to giving testimony or lobbying parliament in the deliberative or discovery process.

Instead of coming up with schemes to create junkets, perks and other cumbersome and strenuous ways to bloat the parliamentary budget and frustrate and complicate the process. They ought to be thinking of constructive ways and means to enrich and ennoble the democracy from a purely layman’s perspective.

This issue may need to be decided by referendum. I am not so naïve as to think that just because some of us vehemently voice our objections to these ill-conceived contrivances that the proponents and their cronies would just go away or roll over and play dead. As I am keenly aware of the age old maxim:”Rigor mortis is the only cure for political ambition”. They would stop at nothing. I fully expect the full court press to go in overdrive.

Nominations or appointments of persons who were unsuccessful at the polls by means of proportional representation are acceptable; they in fact represent some percentage of the electorate who cast votes in their favor. Unsuccessful candidates may be seated based on a minimum threshold, such as garnering a third of the votes cast in their respective constituencies. Redistricting or adjustment of electoral boundaries; reflecting current demographics, to bring about more proportionate representation. Creation of additional seats, such as in the Grenadines or splitting up the Marriaqua Constituency for instance; those options are worth exploring within the ambit of the electoral process.

‘We the people’, are “Civil Society”. We desire persons representing us in our parliament to be the ones we duly elect or endorse in free and fair elections at the polls. We do not wish to create a George Orwell type system where: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.

Benson Plaugh-Feddows