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Constitutional Reform in SVG: A Youth Focus Excerpt from contribution to Parliamentary debates delivered 3rd Sept, 2009.

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Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I rise to join with my colleagues on this side of the House to support categorically the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Constitution Bill 2009.

Mr. Speaker, kindly permit me to speak personally on this matter, and Mr. Speaker I do this very modestly. I am not only the youngest member in the parliament of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but I am also the only Member of Parliament who was born after we would have received national independence and the 1979 constitution.{{more}}

In fact, I was told that in 1979 I was just a mere concept in the minds of my parents. Hence at birth, I met this document as the Supreme law of the land, therefore, for me, today is a most important day in my quest to assist the process of constitutional reform.

For most young persons this is the very first opportunity that we have ever had to engage in meaningful debate on a Constitution. We took the opportunity to be a part of the process over the past six years and we are proud today to recognize that the voice of the youth is reflected throughout this document.

Mr. Speaker, it is the will of the youth that this document which will bring immense benefits to us, is passed in this House, and that it will receive a resounding Yes vote in a referendum.

This Bill, without any doubt, takes into consideration in every material particular a mantra deeply embedded in my heart, “That for our nation to rise to the many challenges of the second half of this Century, there is a dire need now for the nurturing of an exceptional cadre of multitalented youth who will not only be able to govern their lives personally, but the future of this blessed nation; our sub-region – OECS; the region – CARICOM, with a chance to change the world. Hence, protecting the very young ones through the process of Constitutional reform is of prime importance.

Mr. Speaker, please allow me to highlight the clauses in the Bill which gives special and direct attention to youth development and participation delineated in the Guiding Principles of State Policy. But before I do so, I must submit that not a single mention was made of the words “Youth” or “Young” in the 1979 document. This reformed document however speaks to the youth directly on several critical issues.

On a lighter side Mr. Speaker, the Constitution of 1979 was so averse to the words Youth or Young that it did not even mention “Young Island” as one of the islands that make up St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Mr. Speaker,

Clause 19:

“Due appreciation is to be accorded to young persons for their contribution to nation-building.”

So a vote YES, is a vote for rewarding our young people.

Clause 20:

“Every young person has the right to educational, social, cultural and vocational enhancement, including a right to a fair opportunity for responsible participation in national development.”

So a vote YES, is a vote for more social, cultural and economic rights for our young people.

Clause 22:

“Protection of children”

(1) Children are entitled to the protection of the rights of the child as expressed in relevant international treaties to which Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a State Party.

(2) Children born out of wedlock are entitled to the same legal rights and legal status as are enjoyed by children born in wedlock. All forms of discrimination against children on the basis of their being born out of wedlock are prohibited.

A vote YES is a vote for the improved protection of our children.

Clause 68(b):

A person shall be qualified to be elected as a Representative or Senator if he or she has attained the age of eighteen (18) years, instead of the present minimum age of twenty-one (21) years.

A YES vote will provide for young persons to enter into competitive politics at a much younger age. Empowerment to the Youth!

Clause 78:

Civil Society persons are empowered to address Parliament. Provisions are made for the Speaker, the Prime Minister or the Minority Leader to invite persons from civil society to address the National Assembly from time to time on matters within the special expertise of such persons.

A YES vote will also create another avenue for the youth voice to heard!

Mr. Speaker I respect the Oaths as they currently stand under the Constitution of 1979, and I took those Oaths before. First, when I was sworn in as a Senator and Parliamentary Secretary last year April, and again this year when I was sworn in as a Minister of State. I swore to the Queen Elizabeth, her Heirs and Successors, and my Oath I do respect, but deep down in my heart if I am ever given the opportunity to be sworn in again in this Honorable House I will prefer to repeat that:

“I Saboto Scofield Caesar, do swear by Almighty God that I will faithfully bear true allegiance to the State and the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, according to law.”

Thereby rightly substituting the Queen, Her Heirs and Successors.

Our youth must remain positive in the campaign for constitutional reform. We must stand today and be counted! Mr. Speaker, God has granted me the opportunity to speak on an issue of immense importance. I thank the Almighty God for that opportunity. May God richly bless the youth of our nation as we continue to excel.

“Until the victory always”!

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator, now serving as Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture etc.

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