Understanding the Law
August 28, 2009

More time to study the Constitution Bill

I promised last week to discuss the constitution with you, and I want to join other persons who are appealing for more time to examine the document. Yes, the populace was consulted as to what was to be included in the document, but there was only wide spread circulation of the document some three weeks ago. A document as important as the constitution should be widely circulated and the contents properly ventilated.{{more}} Persons who will be required to vote would want to know what they are voting for and they should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Mind you, we do not need to quarrel, neither do we need personal attacks, otherwise the substance of the message will be lost in the anger. Let us discuss the matters in a level-headed, responsible manner. We saw what happened on television in the Town Hall meetings in the United States of America. These were supposed to provide an avenue for exchange of information on health care reforms, but people were fired up for whatever reasons and the debates were concentrated sometimes on issues far removed from the real issues. Some of the exchanges in the newspaper for the last two weeks are regrettable. They were essentially counter-productive and we need to get the debate back on track. Let us move on in the spirit of respect and cooperation. There is no need to denigrate or demonize any one, as we need contributions from everyone, the ordinary and the experts.

Our society prides itself on the specialization of tasks in a world where there is division of labour. We revere our experts in every field. The court depends on the expertise of the experts in matters before it, and it is not unusual to call a surveyor, an economist or a hand writing expert to clarify matters pertaining to their field. It also listens to relevant information from persons who are willing to give.

I do believe that your comments will be taken seriously and amendments will be made. This could only be in keeping with the spirit of democracy. In these divisive political times, when persons are pitted against each other, we need to be reminded of our common humanity, our way of life and the need to produce a document that exemplifies these. It will not be possible to include every shade of opinion, but in the long run we will be able to carve out a document that would exemplify our needs and our aspirations. After all this discussion, the Bill cannot be in the form it was some three weeks ago. There must be a surgical operation and we hope by the time it is ready to go to the vote we are agreed on most of its contents so that a “yes” and “no” vote can be taken. This will be not only practical but cost effective.

It requires great legislative skills to construct a legally sound legislative document, and we expect our constitution which is no ordinary legislation to stand up to the test. First of all, we can look at the language of the bill. It is quite simple, although there is no avoidance of legal jargon. Many of the words used in legal documents have undergone rigorous testing by the court. In fact, one word may have a whole body of case law behind it. Every act carries its own interpretation section but there are times when these are not sufficient and rules of interpretation have to be applied by the Court.

Again I appeal for calm. We can dissect the bill without the rancor and the recrimination.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com