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Our political maturity


by Oscar Allen 30.OCT.09

Now is a good time to check up our political maturity as a nation and state. After all, we are in a heightened political season with Homecoming and Independence 30, combined with constitutional change and referendum. What can we use to measure our maturity? Let me just mention six maturity measurements:{{more}}

First, our political conversation: what are we talking about, whom are we talking with and how enriching/ uplifting is our conversation? How mature is our political discourse?

Second, our nation’s self esteem, how do we feel about ourselves? Measure it.

Third, Political respect; measure how deep is the respect that the state (the power) has for the people and how deep is the respect that we the people have for the state?

Fourth, what level of social and political connection/interaction do all our sectors have with each other, professionals – farmers – students – labourer – business and finance – unemployed? Measure the interaction.

Fifth, Political parties; measure the dialogue, mixing and cooperation between our political parties.

Sixth, The world is our nation; do we have a many-sided, synergic and equalising relationship with other nations and institutions? How do we measure up? Take some time, talk with a friend and look more closely at one or two or more of these measures of our politics. Maybe give a score out of ten.

But I want to set an exercise for myself. I want to examine our political maturity as we engage in constitutional reform. How harmonious and unifying is the movement for constitutional reform and political change? Political immaturity is surrounding the reform process. The political parties in the House of Assembly and the broad majority (98%) of persons supported the reform movement. Then the NDP presented conditionality for continuing their support. Conditionality is legitimate, people do it all the time, but the NDP case was not consistently convincing. Apart from party differences over constitution reform, other differences have come out about the matters in the constitution and while some were considered, more differences are emerging from among the citizens and the political leadership refuses to look at them, in an immature stubbornness. Even more irresponsible are some remarks reported from Sir James Mitchell.

Political maturity in harmonious constitutional reform

I move now to ask how much are our different sectors talking and interacting with each other on the changes in the constitution? National conversation will mean that the Rastafari will combine their case with the Bar Association and the Public Servants and the People’s Movement for Change. One sided conversations do not lead to mature outcomes and conclusions. When I ask the constitution; do you know that farmers have a constitutional handicap when it comes to the fruit of our labour? I get no answer.

But I want to look at the constitution and welcome the fact that the 2009 bill is a good improvement and the 1979 Order. I am just as convinced that we cannot allow 6 years of reform activity to leave us with this incomplete document. Yes it is better but damaged.

I am looking forward to some political mature conversation as I propose 3 classes of change which the proposed constitution can accommodate.

There are some parts of the constitution that are not acceptable. Section 100 has a formula to portion out the seats to Senators that is transparently unjust between subsection (6) & (7) and beyond. A less neat but more just formula must be presented. E.g. the 1st senate seat could go to 6 per cent of the votes as a start, the 10th to 94 per cent.

Subsection (12) & (13) proposed the disenfranchisement of voters (waste votes) which can never be tolerated. The proposed constitution is damaged. Some parts of the proposals can be corrected e.g. the Opening or Preamble, Sections 45, 47, 48.

The constitution seems to name only but not appoint the office of Chairman of the Human Rights Commission. The commission has no teeth in sections (47) & (48). Enabling legislation can hardly go beyond that. The proposed constitution is incomplete.

The persistent and compounded tribal party politics in our small nation is a problem to which the 2009 constitution bill turns a blind eye. This blind spot must be dealt with. This element in the constitution requires a Reconsideration of a separate 2nd Hall/Senate in the Assembly which will not be based on political party personnel. The proposed constitution is not complete.

The move to greater political maturity in the constitutional reform process requires that the referendum be rescheduled to April 2010, that a new constitution process be established and the bill be reopened or reborn.