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Major success of the Referendum

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The historical November 25th, 2009, attempt at constitutional reform was not a victory or a loss for either of the major political parties here in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Instead, it is better regarded as success in waiting for this our blessed nation.

I love the analysis that after 30 years of independence 43% of the persons who voted said YES to constitutional reform in the form rendered, which leaves the need to pursue and achieve only 24% by our current leaders or the very next generation of leaders.{{more}} Should all remain equal, then most Vincentians alive today will see the constitution reformed in their lifetime. The truth of the matter remains that for the most part, we have recognised that constitutional reform is a necessity. Today, we are in a better position to know several important benchmarks as it relates to constitutional reform. this would not have been possible if we had postponed the referendum date. Our people have been excellently informed on issues of constitutional reform and the debate will continue at different levels.

It is indeed exciting times in SVG. We must respect everyone who voted in the referendum, and but for the propaganda and scaremongering in some corners, the process was an entirely uplifting exercise. This shows that our people are constantly maturing. The debates were lively. It was a healthy discussion when it was being done in the atmosphere where the debaters analyzed the issues in a sanitized environment, outside of partisan politics but steeped in history, philosophy and our evolving sociology. It was sadly the hallmark that jest sat in at many instances, and the quest for political expediency in favour of one side or the other would have sought to derail the process in the end. At the end of the day, whether you voted YES or NO to constitutional reform, we must all return to building our nation and executing other important policies for the betterment of our people after November 25th.

I have discussed with an individual whose political persuasion I will not disclose, who indicated to me that she said NO to constitutional reform because she did not support equal treatment of children born in wedlock and those out of wedlock. Interestingly, my friend was of the view that it would indirectly devalue the institution of marriage. For her, voting YES or NO had nothing to do with ULP or NDP. What was more, however, was that she noted that while she voted NO for constitutional reform, she went on unasked, to say that she will be voting YES for the international airport; YES for the continued progress of the education revolution and particularly universal secondary education; YES for the continued policy of the government to be tough against crime and the causes of crime, and her list continued.

This proves that it is incorrect to draw an inference that someone who voted NO or even YES voted along straight party lines, and on a lighter side, that those who spoiled their ballots were between both parties. I am convinced that a significant number of persons voted on the content of the document. What happened in actuality, though, was that the few points where there would have always been the possibility for divergent views, and logical divergence, based on one’s world view on a particular issue, these were highlighted by the opposition, and embellished with propaganda and scaremongering in many instances. The question is whether taking away the propaganda and scaremongering, would the results have been the same? It must also be noted that many persons voted against the proposed constitution because they were dissatisfied not with the entire document but with a small section or sections.

It was regrettable that it appears that some persons voted purely on propaganda, and the content of the propaganda machinery need not be detailed in this article. However, the persons who voted YES purely because they were ULP, or NO purely because they were NDP or NO purely out of misinformation through propaganda really did not allow themselves the opportunity to benefit from such a spirited debate. If we are supposed to be independent thinkers, then every single Vincentian had an opportunity to distil the issues outside of a partisan political environment.

A careful analysis of the process reveals that what may have been intended to be a national exercise in the interest of the county was derailed at some point in the interest of partisan political expediency. The demand for the positives of the document will visit us on a daily basis. Our local circumstances being misconstrued by a final court of appeal in England; no ombudsman; no teachers service commission; no home grown head of state, no integrity commission, and the list continues, are still warranted demands by our people. The day will come again when another document would be taken to the people. I wish that process success in advance.

It is heart warming, though, that it may be difficult if not impossible to find any person totally against constitutional reform or even totally against the 2009 proposed document. 67% was always going to be a challenge in an environment of political distractions of all sorts. What Vincentians have done, however, in the past months is to prove to the world that no number is too large for us to go up against. That no mountain appears too hard for our people to climb, and the fear of not attaining success at the first attempt will not cause us to fail to try and try again. It is this inner resilience that will make the leaders of this generation or the very next generation to attempt constitutional reform again one day. Our national Hero Joseph Chatoyer was killed while fighting colonialism and we must continue to seek victory in this noble struggle.

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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