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Role of Constitutional Reform: 30 years of Independence and beyond!

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As we approach another Independence Day, we must take time to acknowledge those who assisted us in securing such a colossal achievement. For those who did not have the opportunity to witness this period in Vincentian history, we, the youth, owe it to our independence fighters to continue the legacy of a relentless quest for autonomy in national decision-making; freedom from foreign control; and the power to direct our own paths without undue influence by others.{{more}} Whilst as a society we have faced many challenges, we have learned very important lessons throughout the thirty years of independence from our Mother Country, which will assist our growth as a nation as we move towards the second half of the 21st Century.

As we seek to bolster our political independence and sovereignty, we will in effect be helping to lift this society to a level where each citizen has a greater sense of self-determination which forms the much broader concept of the consciousness of self-help. It is in these concepts that our people will find the necessary tools to translate the intended gains of political independence into our future advancement and a much desired personal independence.

The transition of our people through slavery to emancipation was by no means unperturbed, and likewise the process of truly being independent must not be relaxed, as there are many more changes that we should endure in order to see a progression in our nation. It is in this regard that Constitutional reform must be viewed as a critical part of the on-going process of securing our independence.

Independence in 1979 brought with it a fundamental document in the form of our written Constitution, which contains our essential political rights, civil liberties and stipulations for a Bill of rights. In 2007, I wrote in an article that, “It is safe to conclude that the majority of our citizenry have never seen a copy of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, far less read its contents. In such a case, how does one fully understand and appreciate the value of it? Perhaps, it is timely that our nation be informed through ongoing public discussions of the essence of the Constitution and the underlying powers therein.”

That statement was correct in 2007. However, it does not reflect the current situation in our country two years later. It is indisputable that over the past year we have seen our nation evolve into a school of constitutional law, discussing constitutional issues at the highest level with all citizens. This has been a participatory exercise second to none.

Our political independence must always be viewed as an evolutionary process, which formally began in 1979. The hallmark of this evolutionary process involves the exercise of our authority to make our own laws which are binding on our people. It is in this regard that the Constitutional Reform pendulum has begun to swing in our nation. What will be the outcome of our nation if our Constitution remains unamended throughout our history? In 2007, the Prime Minister of Japan referred to their Constitution, which was never amended in their sixty-year history, as being “incapable of adapting to the great changes taking place.” We must wait no longer in SVG!

We are situated in a regional and global space, where great changes are taking place in trade, integration, education, agriculture, infrastructure and foreign policy. Any participatory role and function in the CSME will act as an expression of growth in our political sovereignty and independence. Constitutional Reform is important to the process and real changes can be effected, thus making future independence celebrations more meaningful as our nation gradually develops and takes greater form.

However, the dynamics involved in inheriting our present legal and political system, a process molded by the very colonizers from whom we fought to gain emancipation then our independence, must not be kept as a dagger in the heart of a patriot. We must finally free ourselves from the remnants of colonialism. Fundamental to the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is good governance. Our independence rests with the men and women of this nation, since it is removed from the hands of our mother country. Therefore, the issue of creating the requisite framework for good governance is in our hands. This is sufficient justification for supporting a home-grown constitution after 30 years of independence. The reformed constitution is a document drafted for the people, by the people.

Constitutional reform is revolutionary as well, in the sense that it will cause new and different major changes in our development. In its proper context, Constitutional reform has a greater purpose than just “WE” exercising our power to make laws. The extended purposes entail firstly, our ability to enhance the credibility and effectiveness of our public institutions, secondly, to strengthen our democracy and public engagement with decision-making, and thirdly, to increase trust and accountability in public bodies.

Each Vincentian must be proactive in whatever sector they are placed, and must work together with the universal aspiration of perpetuating progress, in an effort to secure the fruits of our independence. In view of this, each citizen has to be civil minded and committed to nation building to an extent that unequivocally expresses their desires to be aware of the necessity to maintain our national independence. Happy 30th Independence to our nation, SVG, my homeland!

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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