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November 25th-Our Big Day!

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Our nation is within touching distance of completing what will be one of the most historical exercises in its development. Our people will go to the polls on Wednesday, November 25, 2009, to change the Constitution received in 1979. In such an important national exercise, it is sad to say that there are factions in our society who have mobilised themselves with the intention to prevent change.{{more}} Many who were counted at one time as progressives are now advocating that we must wait a little longer before we bring about such meaningful and overdue change in the form of Constitutional reform.

It is apparent that those who oppose constitutional reform rally around a party’s cause and not a national cause. However, with every passing day the theme “Country before party” is resonating with more and more Vincentians. It is a period for all Vincentians to unite for the love of country. Political parties will come and parties will go, but the land of our birth, blessed SVG, will forever remain.

The facts are not difficult to understand. They are clear and simple. In the year 1979, thirty years ago, on October 27th, our people received national independence from Britain. This amounted to a surrender of political sovereignty by the British over our island, and must at all times be viewed as one of the most decisive actions in the process of decolonization embarked upon by our people. The struggles for independence whether they were covert or overt at times, academic or otherwise, were deep-seated, and it took the courage of many of our brothers and sisters to achieve any form of success over a period of time. It was indeed a fight for colonial disengagement. Our quest for national independence entailed a wrestle to bring about a new dispensation, which entrusted our people with more than just an imagination of sovereignty, but allowed us to fully exercise the sovereignty of our imagination. Today the national journey continues, and constitutional reform, when achieved, will be another significant achievement not only for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines but for the entire region.

What is most critical, however, is that at the point of political independence, we as a people received a document, a constitution, a text which was to form the supreme law of our land and act as the virtual blue print setting the framework for the evolution and the shaping of the identity of the Vincentian civilization. The constitution of 1979 has travelled its full course. It is high time for reform.

Constitutional Reform is important for our people at this point on two key grounds. Firstly, the document which forms our 1979 constitution is not one which we drafted with the peculiarities of our people in mind; and secondly, even if one was to say that the document of 1979 was a good document in 1979, our society has evolved over the last thirty years in so many ways that the need for constitutional reform is an indisputable recommendation. We must play our part in the process.

When the history books are written it would be way too late for those who say “No” now to such an excellent document to have their stance corrected. When one is placed in a position to analyse our circumstances, it is clear that we have struggled with many misfortunes as a people, which is only natural as we strive to build and nurture a successful nation. We have, however, never allowed our struggles to set us back, and for the most part we have seized great opportunities for the advancement of our people. We have a great opportunity before us on November 25th to set the record right.

The final stamp of confirmation is in waiting. We have the power to act on behalf of our nation as patriotic citizens, and this must be done by our people in a Referendum when we vote YES. It is true that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines our Constitution has never received ratification in a proper referendum by our citizens. Why refuse this opportunity? What part did we as a people play in the drafting of the 1979 Constitution? The 1979 document has been referred to as “Our” Constitution, in so far as it is the supreme law of the land, but not because it was shaped and crafted by our people. On the contrary, the proposed Constitution is coming from the belly of our society. Every man, woman and child had a chance to have a say in the process. It is in this light that it is correct to say that the 1979 Constitution is not the authoritative expression of the collective will of the Vincentian people. It is for this reason that we must take this opportunity to say “YES” we want our experiences of many years of freedom and national independence to be reflected in a home-grown document which will stand as the supreme law of our land. We must say “YES” to such a progressive idea. How can we oppose such a valiant effort? Our people will affirm that we are no longer willing to wait, so we will vote “Yes” in the referendum come November 25.

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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