R. Rose
November 13, 2009
A no case submission

ONE OF the old English poets is credited with the saying:
“There are three things which come not back.
The spoken word, the sped arrow (discharged bullet, in today’s world.) and the lost opportunity.”

As Vincentians move towards the historic November 25th Referendum on the Constitution, it would do us some good to bear those words in mind. The “lost opportunity” bit is particularly relevant for here we have the unique opportunity to make our mark in shaping our own future, being able to have a hand in crafting the supreme law of our land.{{more}} It is an opportunity too good to be missed, our own generation (registered voters of today and the people as a whole who contributed to the wide consultative process) being the only one so far which has won that right, long struggled for by Mc Intosh, Joshua and their successors. But are we about to squander this golden opportunity, to muff this crucial chance (as they say in cricketing circles)?

It is a pity that the referendum is not being viewed in those terms, that, instead, it is the lens of political partisanship through which many are examining the referendum. In addition, the Ralph Gonsalves bug has so affected a significant part of our population that instead of a referendum on our constitutional future, it is being promoted as a plebiscite on Ralph’s terms of office. That is not due, for another year guaranteed should the Constitution Bill get the required majority, but possibly much sooner, at Gonsalves’ will, if the two thirds margin is not achieved.

In so doing we are doing ourselves an historic injustice. How could an enlightened people, envied by most of the rest of the Caribbean, and millions beyond it, for our courage and foresight in seeking to take charge of our own constitutional destiny, willingly decide to say “NO” to positive constitutional change? How could we, in the 21st century opt to keep that which we never had a hand in crafting (partly because of gross political irresponsibility on the part of some leaders), in preference to a product shaped by own hands? How could we in 2009, vote to keep Elizabeth of Windsor, her heirs and successors, as the persons to whom the people we charge with our governance, must swear their allegiance? How could we?

Such a plea will of cause not be heard by the ears of those who have blocked reason from hearing, all because they want to teach Gonsalves a lesson. But is it not sacrificing our birthright for a sop of political gratification? Our Constitution, and amended versions of it, will remain our guiding document of governance, long after Gonsalves bones have become dust, should we sacrifice our chance to claim it, as COLLECTIVELY OURS, because we feel that Gonsalves would take the credit? Constitutional reform and the deepening of democracy were issues long before Ralph Gonsalves cut his own teeth, much more his political teeth. Are we to allow those who can see no further than unseating Gonsalves to lead the rest of us down a path strewn with ignorance?

It is pathetic to hear the reasons being advanced for a “NO”, vote. Those who shamelessly lead this charge and those who wittingly or unwittingly give succour to or support them, are guilty of the worst practices of deception ever witnessed in our country. All the criticisms of “Independence Day bribery” and “political manipulation,” even if accepted, cannot absolve them of TEACHERY against the interests of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

After three decades of political independence, we are providing a platform for a political leader who though elected to represent the interests of those who did not support the government of the day (1974-79), had abdicated his responsibility by refusing to participate in the Conference from which our present Constitution emerged. How could he chide his bedfellows for boycotting the process when that was his precise action 30 years ago? Where are the dangers in this Constitution? In the not-so-veiled hints about Chavez and communism, coming from people who should know better? Is it that the Constitution proposed in fact is even with its limitations, too democratic for those who can conceive of no other rule but one based on the prevalence of ignorance?

Let’s suppose the Constitution Bill 2009 does not get the two thirds approval. The 34 per cent plus who voted against, where is their level of understanding of constitutional matters the next day? Do they celebrate a victory? Over what? A Constitution that their party helped to shape? Where do they go from there? What do they tell us at the next election, on constitutional reform? What is their strategy for uplifting the understanding of our people on such matters?

We, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, irrespective of whether we have love or hate Ralph, regardless of what we think of P.R. Campbell, have a scared duty to rest those thoughts aside for the appropriate occasion. We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by those who aggressively peddle ignorance and fear, those who would fritter away all the hard-earned rights of our people to do their own bidding and abide by laws of their own making. The misleaders must be exposed as anti-national and unpatriotic, backward and self-seeking. The only “NO” in their case is a “NO CASE” submission.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.