By Alexis B. Montgomery
The shock value stemming from the recommendations communicated by the citizenry of Saint Lucia through the Constitutional Reform Commission’s Report debated in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, is understandable. As the Prime Minister himself admitted the extensive nature of the 190 recommendations and submissions captured in the report of over 300 pages, is notable, coming from an oftentimes less than responsive public.
So indeed the report is telling, and as can be anticipated has provoked many ripples of surprise amongst parliamentarians. They have raised many well placed questions and concerns, some of which were weaved into their presentations whilst the sitting was in progress. Indeed so passionate were they, even the former commissioners found themselves to be the subject of criticism, perhaps driven by the perception that they had personally taken this government to task.
The debate dwelled primarily on ticklish aspects of the recommendations including proposals recommending a full-scale adoption of the system of government practised in the United States of America, voting directly for the Prime Minister, the power of recall, and systems to cause political parties to be more accountable about their campaign funds and sources of funding. Not surprising; as well entrenched political comfort zones were clearly identified for overhaul and radical change, in the report.
Very concerning was the manner in which some of the parliamentarians appeared to be crying foul on the authenticity of the document. One representative implied, for example, that he was not sure the recommendations for a hybrid government would have emanated from his constituency; at the risk of insulting the intelligence of the people of that area. Are the parliamentary representatives generally not convinced that the report is a true reflection of the thinking and desires of the citizenry?
If so, this is a strong basis to prescribe that the recommendations go through a period of rigorous public discussion. This should be initiated immediately, ahead of another meeting of Parliament on this matter.
The subtle tongue – lashing that the commissioners received and the hardly veiled reprimands including saying to them that not all the recommendations will be accepted or implemented is unnecessary. The twenty–three learned former commissioners, at the time headed by Justice Suzie D’auvergne deceased, ought to be given credit for understanding the parameters of this exercise. The mandate of the exercise was clearly included in the document. Ironically the commissioners were commended that the document was very well compiled.
At this juncture the report has been transmitted to the government; it has been tabled at a Sitting of Parliament – shouldn’t the way forward now have less to do with the political palatability of the report or the commissioners who are now reverted to being private citizens in any case? Shouldn’t attention now weigh more heavily on the government seeking to arrive at public consensus by way of referendum on those issues?
Many are complaining that for too long now this model of government has remained largely stagnant since Independence 36 years ago and has been weakening gradually in its ability to meet the needs of our ever evolving, and enlightened society. As to why some of the MPs appeared to be so startled by the contents of the report adds credence to the observation that they have not quite understood that “you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all of the time, for they have seen the light”.