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A closer look at the proposed Constitution

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The first part of the document is intended to ring out the old and bring in the new. This is a necessary part of the process of enacting the constitution and making it legal in accordance with the directives of the existing constitution. It starts out with the preamble which contains recitals about purpose and the intention to alter the existing constitution.{{more}}

Enacting measures

Section 3 of the Schedule states that the provisions of Order in Council in 1979 are revoked and the former Constitution is repealed. These words would cause the new constitution to come into effect. The Governor General would by proclamation which would be published in the Gazette fix a day for the commencement of the constitution. According to the bill, existing laws would continue to have effect, but on the appointed day the new with whatever changes would become the laws of the land. This first part also provides for the enforcement and validation of some existing laws, for example, oaths that were made under the former constitution would remain in force.

Sovereign state

The constitution itself, like ordinary statute law, starts off with an arrangement of sections which lays out the contents of the act. Following are the recitals that we are a nation which is founded on the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man. The first five sections stipulate the distinctive features of the State. It declares it to be a sovereign multi-island state with a constitution that is supreme.

Guiding principles

Unlike the old constitution, it sets out certain guiding principles of state policy. It has become the practice to include guiding principles in modern laws. These are basic statements with regard to the beliefs and way of life of a people. The first principle contained in section 5(1) states that “the people are the true political sovereign of the State, power belongs to the people. Therefore the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of the government……as may be established under this Constitution”. Section 13 states that every person has a right to equality of treatment by public authorities. It touches some areas that have been neglected by the existing constitution and which have been in public discourse. For example, equality for women and men, the elderly and the disabled, right to work, right to health, freedom of culture, among others.

Fundamental rights

Like the old law it intends to protect the fundamental rights of the individual, namely the right to life, right to personal liberty, among others. These rights cannot in anyway be diminished because of the exclusion of the word “inalienable/ unalienable”. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an eighteenth century Philosopher, in his “Social Contract”, claims that the existence of inalienable rights is unnecessary for the existence of a constitution or a set of laws and rights. Along with the guiding principles our fundamental rights should receive the protection that we expect.

Human Rights Commission

Chapter 4 provides for a Human Rights Commission. There has been quite a great deal of discussion on human rights issues both locally and internationally. There has been a Human rights Act in Britain since 1998. The establishment of a Commission to deal with abuses by providing an avenue for complaint could only enhance the fundamental rights of Vincentian. It is now up to the law makers to make relevant legislation to regulate and give substance to this provision.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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