I listened to and read all I could about what everybody else had to say about the Report and the 190 Recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) since the document was first laid and debated in the House of Assembly on August 18 and (later) in both the Upper and Lower Houses, all in one week.
It’s been almost seven years, so it’s time for a time check – or (even better) a reality check – on where we came from, where we are and where we want to go next.
I paid as much attention as possible to all those I was able to watch and listen to in my continuous coverage and assessment of the parliamentary debates on the Report and Recommendations. But, like everyone else, I was especially interested in what the Prime Minister had to say.
I’ve never heard my press colleagues refer to Dr Kenny D. Anthony as “a Constitutional lawyer”. (That freely donated title is usually reserved for another local legal advocate who they also refer to as a “human rights lawyer”). But I know that Kenny Anthony has been both a student and teacher of Constitutional Law. He was CARICOM’s lawyer, he taught law at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and even Sir John Compton and Dame Eugenia Charles accepted him as a Legal Advisor to the OECS leaders when they were considering establishment of a regional Constituent Assembly (RCA), so I awaited his intervention with quite some admittedly bated breath, if not pure anxiety.
Like most Saint Lucians, I haven’t fully read the Saint Lucia Constitution Order (1978). But from all what I heard Prime Minister Anthony say about how the British were thinking and what they did at the time to ensure we could not touch the very Constitution they gave us for the rest of our lives, I’m not sure I even want to (read it all) anymore at this point.
Through the various parliamentary debates and public discussions in the press on the CRC Report and Recommendations, I have come to know more than I ever would have, was it not for them. I heard a lot I knew, but more that I didn’t. However, given the way both sides of both Houses came to the common conclusion that so much is wrong with it, I strongly feel that merely tinkering around with clauses and chapters — no matter how much — to try to re-shape it into something looking more like us is just wasting time, over and over again.
I’ve come to the conclusion that in this day and age, after having established several records as the CARICOM and Commonwealth Caribbean country that has had the longest-lasting Constitutional Reform process that resulted in the most recommendations ever submitted to any government, we need to set another example.
Instead of trying to reshape something that was meant to keep us in a constitutional straightjacket, I strongly feel we should just throw the British baby out with the Monarchical bath water.
If we agree – as both Houses do – that we need to fundamentally reshape this shapeless tract into something more in our own image and likeness, then we not only need to take back the ‘Queen’s Chain’ and stop doing everything in our Parliament in the name of ‘Her Majesty’. We must also be careful not to throw the Independence baby out with the colonial bathwater.
My position is clear. I want us to be clear who will commission the commission’s recommendations. I want to know what’s in it for Ma Joe and Mr Blo. And I also want to know why we can’t just use the end of this current process to start again — afresh.
If I believe what I’ve heard thus far, it will take another seven years (at least) to decide where we want to go. For too many of us, we simply don’t yet know where we want to go, because we are simply still groping in the constitutional darkness, waiting for someone to give us another ‘road map’ to a better Constitution to rule ‘We the People’.
Unlike others with no hope, I do know that we have all it will take to use our past to better shape our future — in this case, by learning all we can from yesterday to ensure we get the best of today and secure the best for tomorrow for all our heirs and successors, red and yellow, rich and poor and not-so-poor.
So, if so be the case, then (like Marvin Gaye sang): Let’s Get It On!