Our Readers' Opinions
November 13, 2009
Unethical Constitution Ads

by: Oscar Allen 13.NOV.09

The “Yes We Must” calypso competition was a direct challenge to the calypso artform. Calypso does not take orders and caricature state power. Almost every calypsonian has songs like that in his/her repertoire. So when the ULP state says to Calypsonians “Sing My Song” and win a prize, it was an ideological challenge and a measure of the influence that the “Yes We Must” message had in the calypso world. I found it to be abusive and offensive that a censorship, a muzzle was put on the calypsonians to sing in only one way, and some of the artistes quite rightly rejected the inducement to sing a ULP political roadmarch.{{more}}

The constitution bill itself is receiving some high lyrical promotion. “Best in the World – of a parliamentary type” is one ad. Other lyrics highlight some specific element, like the Guiding Principles, the Service Commissions, the decline in the powers of the Prime Minister, the Public Accounts Committee, removal from the British Monarchy and Privy Council etc. I have no wish to downsize what the reform process has come up with. In fact, it is my appeal for the reform to go further along the road it has begun to take. I just wonder though, how thorough and how reflective the promoters have been as they examined the product that we have generated so far.

I am a conscious and preoccupied citizen who has not read the constitution bill from cover to cover, yet I cannot sing these unquestioning songs of praise for the document. I do not expect, nor do I accept a mediocre product from this reform process. As a farmer myself, my purchasers do not expect nor accept mediocre products from me. So the quality of goods that I produce is what I demand. I will not deal with the negative promotions of the constitution at this time.


There are things in the proposed constitution that I cannot sing about because they are the everyday, normal things that I expect to see. The removal of the British monarchy cannot make me sing, it had to go. On the other hand, many of the things that I warm towards, I also sigh about. I like them, but I don’t like how they stop short. They abort the development of the constitution as a healthy full term birth – gift.

I look at the “Guiding Principles of State Policy” and I appreciate the introduction of this philosophical approach to policy, but why does it have to be so tentative, so conservative? For example, it makes constitutionally derived organs supreme, rather than the people (clause 5). That clause also allows Government the leeway to do things that are not primarily in the best interests of the people; in clause 8, it recommends that state systems “ought to strive”, rather than “shall strive” for sustainable economic development. Even clause 20, directed to the youth, wags a warning finger as it supports their “right to fair opportunity for responsible participation in national development”. Is there really an irresponsible way to take part in national development?

Generally though this “Guiding Principles” chapter is a good start to the constitution and yet I have to sigh in sadness over it. You see among the earliest constitutions to embrace Principles of State Policy were the independence constitutions of India and Pakistan in 1947. A country more challenged than our own, Papua New Guinea (PNG), contains in its 1975 independence constitution, more substantial and interlocking statements of National Goals, Directive Principles and Social Rights and Obligations. PNG is a “constitutional monarchy” like we are, but unlike the “Guiding Principles” that are proposed for us, PNG has “Directive Principles”. As you may suspect, it is hard to enforce Guiding Principles, which are really declarations or preferences. In PNG, the National Goals and Directive Principles guide the courts and other tribunals in their decisions, and state laws too have to be expressions of these statements. The principles are not preferences; they are determinants of practical policies and of the people’s rights.

I want to join the chorus line in the calypsos, psalms and jingles that exalt our constitution. I do want ours to be one of the best, but in the referendum rush and the party fever, the “rushans” are unable to hear and join our citizen discussion. They are afraid to respect our voices, they are consumed by their promotional monologues. They must pause. They must be called to halt in order to refocus on the substance of the constitution and to defuse the environment. From within the People’s Movement for Change, we call on citizens and patriotic organisations to stand together and speak for our nation to our leaders. A truce, a halt!