Our Readers' Opinions
June 26, 2009
This is a National Document – the highest law of the land!


Editor: “The Government is not serious about the debate…” Those were the views expressed by a caller on one local radio call-in program called ‘Issues at hand’ last Sunday. The caller went on to support his statement by pointing to the scarcity of the Constitution Bill for public perusal.{{more}}

I agree with the view expressed and I think much more can be done by those in authority to get the document readily available to the public. Not only making it within the reach of all, but serious efforts need to be exerted to explain, in simple terms, the proposals in the Bill as well as the contents of the current constitution. How do you expect the people to make an informed vote if they are not knowledgeable about the proposed and current constitution? Unless you (including the Opposition) expect them to vote along party lines! This ought not to be. This is a National Document- the highest law of the land!

So I ask, what plan(s) do you have to give mass education to the whole population? You must practically encourage people to take interest in the debate. Begin by explaining the seemingly basic things e.g. what is a constitution, its purpose, the role of government, different systems of government, the origin of Rights and Freedoms etc. Use the airwaves, have worthwhile T.V. ads, hold seminars facilitated by truly knowledgeable persons…

The newspapers are generally doing a good job in highlighting people’s views on the topic. But we know that not all Vincentians will benefit fully from this medium. The points/amendments need to be brought alive in simple, palatable language. I must commend non-profit organizations like the Thusian Institute for Religious Liberty INC. for making the good effort to give (constitution) education on their paid radio and TV program and their contribution made on call-in programs.

In addition, I urge you the Government to critically consider and implement, where necessary, the views of the people that will make for an improved constitution (like defining Rights as inalienable). Please note that consideration thereof should be based on maturity and true nation-building- value even if the view may be in the minority.

Another problem I have is the call for us to vote by saying “yes” or “no” to the entire document in a November 2009 referendum. Persons who cannot see beyond party politics, don’t tell me that I am unreasonable and anti-the good of the people! Don’t tell me anything about the process will take too long or use too much resources (paper)! Some have even suggested that it is a better thing to do (vote yes/no) since a lot of our people are illiterate! How ridiculous. This means that you should make it your duty to inform and educate these persons well.

So let’s consider the democratic and reasonability of the opportunity to be able to vote by amendment or point by observing the scenario below.

* Page 63 #74(3a&b)”…unless there has been an interval of not less than 60 days( instead of 90) between the introduction of the bill in the National Assembly and the beginning of the proceedings in the National Assembly on the second reading of the bill;…” (NO)

* Page 12#17(2) states “The state shall protect marriage, which shall be a legal union only between a person who is biologically male at birth and a person who is biologically female at birth.” (YES)

Imagine for a while that the proposed constitution consisted only of the above-mentioned two points.

I ask you dear reader, which is the better reflection of the choice of my conscience? Is it to just vote yes or no to all two of the points even if I don’t agree with one of them or Is it better to give me the opportunity to vote point by point? You judge righteously!

Ann-Marie John