THE debate on the report of the Constitutional Reform Commission has ended but the journey to carve out a Constitution for the country that reflects the views of the people has not ended.
The suggestion that the next stage moves to a committee, either a parliamentary sub-committee as proposed by Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony or one proposed by former Prime Minister Stephenson King comprising representatives from the government, the opposition, advisors from civil society, existing or former senators and a drafting expert will soon be decided upon.
However, aside from the objections, opinions and suggestions raised by elected parliamentarians which ranged from the call of a referendum on whether Saint Lucia moves from the Privy Council to the Caribbean Court of Appeal as its final appellate court, to an outright rejection of the recommendation calling for elected parliamentarians to resign from parliament should they desire to become ministers, or the removal entirely of the term ‘illegitimate child’ from the wording of legislation, the important feature coming out of the two days of debate by elected parliament is that the present Constitution of the land is not a Saint Lucian product.
Prime Minister Dr. Anthony summed it all up when in his closing remarks, he noted that the Constitution did not spring from the common aspirations of Saint Lucians and that, despite serving them well over the years, it did not mean that it was without imperfections.
“We have to be very clear that this constitution that governs our affairs is not a constitution of our own. It did not spring from out common aspirations, it did not capture who we are, it did not capture our distinct heritage; had this constitution been about self-definition of who we are and what we are it might have been different in so many respects,” Dr. Anthony said.
He said that the constitution has the lowest level of validity in that the British parliament created it by the lowest level in the hierarchy of laws.
“It is not a constitution of our own making. It was not created by an act of the Saint Lucian people. The time has come to create a constitution in our own image and in our own likeness.” Dr. Anthony said.
The Prime Minister removed himself from views expressed during the two days of debate that in essence claimed that the constitution had served the country well and did not really need fixing but rather a tweaking here and there.
While admitting that the constitution had served the country well he referenced the 1982 debacle that saw the Labour Party imploding as a crisis that he is not sure was handled in accordance with the Constitution.
In last Tuesday’s debate Deputy Prime Minister Phillip J. Pierre had referenced the same debacle as proof that the constitution had handled the crisis satisfactorily and as such had served the country well.
But the Prime Minister said that he believed that what occurred in Saint Lucia at that time was extra constitutional which may have well flouted the constitution.
“The fact that no crisis existed and that this constitution has served us well does not mean that it is not full of imperfections,” Dr. Anthony said.
The Constitution Reform Commission report and those who compiled it came in for a bashing from some parliamentarians over the two days of debate however, the Prime Minister described the report as “a product of the times” that captured the passions of the moment and the pre-occupations of the people.
“As a small country when you are speaking of constitutional reforms there are some imperatives you must put on the table. Whatever we are going to produce we have to prepare for the simple factors. When we are crafting a constitution we have to be careful that what we are crafting we can pay for and that our resources are sufficient to allow us to pay for the institutions that we create.
“We have to be careful how we nurse, how we nourish the tree of democracy. Democracy ought never to be complex, it must never be intimidating, never searched for where it resides or what it means,” Dr. Anthony said.