Letters & Opinion

The Writing on the Wall

The Independent Eye - By Kensley Peter Charlemagne

IT’S not me being prophetic; it’s just that everything is telling me that I’ve got to write about the constitution. To recall all my signals would take up too much space.

The debate on the Constitutional Reform report proves something that I have been stating for a very long time, that what passes for democracy here, really is not. Don’t be fooled. Without quoting them directly, both the Prime Minister and the President of the Senate gave the clearance that the shackles be removed off the expression of representatives in the houses. “Speak freely”, they commanded. Imagine, the parliament is a band of severed consciences. “Speak freely.” I really thought that as a democratic country that is what they would have been doing in the first place. But how could I? Remember the Helen Air issue? Severed consciences and we’re independent! Emancipated?

There were a few things that made me glad in the discussion. Some of the things I’ve been saying for years surfaced. In the independent model I called for the scrapping of the Senate and lo and behold the Prime Minister agrees with me. That rubber stamp needs to go; an extra layer of government we do not need. There was some talk of local government reform. The thinner government is the better. Mr Frederick has made several calls for parliamentary representatives to be given a lump sum for them to administer in a given year in their constituency. I am all for that. I think it was Senator Stehen King who espoused that the parliamentary representative should be the head of local government in his constituency. I’ve been advocating that model for a while. And then there is the hogwash of bringing back elected local government councils. Why complicate government and add a financial and administrative burden on it? Like the Senate it’s not needed. What we need to reinforce are our community development foundations; they along with the parliamentary representative are all the local government we need. Keep it simple, stupid. (Someone asked me this week, “Why do you think people don’t vote for you?” I told him it’s because they have not understood my political philosophy.)

And now to the most contentious issue in the debate. No, it’s not term limits for Prime Ministers, which I am against. It’s the issue of separation of powers, which the independent model advocates. No parliamentary representative should be a Minister of Government. And to see all the roosters beating their chests, even those with breasts. Please don’t hurt your mammary glands. You are not any less of a person because you canvassed a whole constituency, took all the insults and licks (for some that’s literal), beads of sweat and energy, and you’re not given a ministry. Your only argument can be that you spent loads of money buying food and rum, t-shirts and emblems and paid people to vote for you and you need to recoup your returns on your investments. Go ahead, you can tell us the truth. The issue of campaign financing; the elephant in the room.

One of my signposts was a documentary on the 2014 people’s uprising in Burkina Faso, when the then leader wanted to change the constitution to allow himself more time in office. Recent history not to be soon erased from our minds. The question is: “What issue would ignite the people of Saint Lucia to revolt against government?” But we are so divided, I don’t see it happening. After all, they have spat in our faces and told us that the Constitutional Reform Commission was the voice of the elite grouping not the voice of the people. Spit in our face and we do nothing about it. Does not surprise me; 15% VAT when we could least afford it, increase in the salaries of parliamentarians and pensions after two terms and no revolt. We’re nothing but frogs acclimatizing in lukewarm water waiting for our imminent death, but don’t know it.

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