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Mr Prime Minister, is this your idea of democracy?

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28.JAN.11

Editor: The Bible declares that God who sets up governments (and takes them down too!) has given sacred responsibilities to men in government. Among the God-ordained duties given to ministers is to be a minister of God to the people “for good…for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.”(Romans 13:3,4). When a government fails or refuses to perform its God-given duties towards the people, it means that it has sight of its responsibilities and cannot be good for the people.{{more}} The current ULP Administration continues to show lack of appreciation for the God-endowed purpose of government by its lack of respect for the peoples’ Rights and Freedoms.

The recent proposal to amend the Criminal Procedure Code and the Representation of the People Act is glaring evidence that the Government does not have the protection of the people’s Rights and Freedoms at heart. They are not fostering or ministering ‘good’ to the people. When I hear a government is planning to repeal subsections of an Act that helps to restrain and punish anti-rights and anti-freedoms behaviour of candidates during an election period, I have to exclaim ‘What ah government!’

The sections of the Representation of the People Act under consideration stipulate serious penalties for persons who are found guilty of violating the Rights and Freedoms of another (e.g. through slander and libel) before or during an election. The Act states: “Any person who, before or during an election, for the purpose affecting the return of any candidates or prospective candidates at such election, makes or publishes any false statement in fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of such candidates is guilty of an illegal practice and liable to a fine of seven hundred and fifty dollars and to imprisonment for one year.” Sec.51, subsec.3

Subsection 4 of the Act goes on to outline the punishment for the convicted offender, which includes being “incapable during a period of five years from the date of his conviction of (a) being registered as a voter or of voting at any election; and(b) of being elected or appointed as a member f the House of Assembly, or, if elected or appointed before his conviction, or retaining his seat as such a member:…” The penalties attached to the crime show the seriousness thereof and help a person to realise that he/she must conduct himself in a responsible manner, knowing that they will be held accountable. This means that the existing piece of legislation encourages a high standard of behaviour among those seeking to be our Representatives. Now, why would a government want to remove that! Already, we have cases of misbehaviour (lies etc.), I cannot imagine what will happen if the sections are repealed.

The move by the government to amend the Criminal Procedure Code is equally unacceptable and must be protested. It is an attempt to reduce the choices that the people have to seek justice. So instead of having two options (going through the DPP or going straight to the magistrate), we will have one. It is also placing too much power in the hands of one man – a man who may have a politically biased leaning. Mr. Prime Minister, is this your idea of “deepening democracy.” Is this “ennobling the Caribbean civilisation” of which Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a part?

A government is supposed to be seeking to strengthen our democratic processes, not take them away! We should not allow such anti-rights and anti-freedoms legislations to see the light of day in our country – not now, not ever!

These proposed amendments indicate that we are really heading for a further downward path in our country – a path of immorality and injustice. And to think that it is pushed by men who hold the highest office in our land is disgraceful. Oh my God, what ah government! Have mercy upon Lord with such a government. It is you (Lord) who pronounce a “woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgement, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless.” Isaiah 10:1,2

Ann-Marie Ballantyne
[email protected]

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