THERE was a time I looked forward to Time magazine ‘person of the year.’ I was fascinated by the fact that the magazine’s policy was to choose a person or entity that had the greatest impact on America – not necessarily a positive one. The person or thing selected must have changed America in an unpredictable and unimagined way. On that score the revengeful 9/11 attacks masterminded by Osama Bin Laden, should have made the front cover of Time. That it did not perhaps meant that the attacks had struck too close to the heart and soul of the citadel of American business and politics.
No such claims can be laid on the little Star newspaper with the big heart, (or is it huge gonads?), operating in a minuscule, half literate, fearful Saint Lucian society. When its publishers first announced a person of the year, I imagined they had chosen to mould a special species of men and women from available feeble stock – as it conjured up victories from such weakness. I smiled at the paper’s offerings and looked with interest and without comment.
The time has come to use the opportunity presented in these weekly columns to say who (or what), in my view, should be deserving person of the year, in this sweet little rock of sages – by which I do not mean the aromatic herb used in cooking. To select a deserving person or thing even from a small field does not make the final selection less challenging.
For my part the following persons are on my short list of ‘person of the year, 2015’. Ms. Mary Francis; for her persistent advocacy of due process, fair trial for accused persons and her bold condemnation of the lackadaisical functioning of the justice system in Saint Lucia. Ms. Mary Isaac, formerly president of the Civil Service Association (CSA), who showed strength and courage in standing up for her members against a government which threatened to deduct their salaries without any consultation or prior agreement, and whose advocacy continues in the island’s Senate.
To these two, I add Mr. Guy Joseph, Member of Parliament (MP), for Castries South East – for his consistent representation of his constituents in Parliament in the face of planned, hostile and mischievous distractions there.
Notwithstanding the commendable efforts and high profile of these three my choice of person of the year is ‘The Constitution Review Committee,’ so ably chaired by Justice Suzie d’Auvergne, deceased. If I was forced to choose another to replace the deceased Justice and her Committee, it would be Eldon Mathurin, a surviving senior member of Justice d’ Auvergne’s Review Committee.
In our anxiety for political independence and the undue haste with which Britain wished to offload her remaining colonies, we accepted a ‘handed-me-down’ constitution, preferred by others. On the portals of 37 years independence, what could be more meaningful and transformative than the tabling of a new revised constitution for the island? A far sighted government and parliament could have seen to it. The rock of sages with its Nobel Laureates deserves better.
A constitution that aims to further empower people while eroding the dictatorial provisions for a Prime Minister – any Prime Minister – would be beyond reproach or rebuke. Furthermore, a constitution which anoints the electorate with powers of recall, would have spoken volumes to a region and to a world that has grown accustomed to treating people as footstools and voting machines and king ascending to political power, fame and fortune.
It was bad enough for the Prime Minister and his cronies to disagree so publicly and insultingly with the Committee Report. What was even more debasing and déclassé was to have invited a sister of the deceased Justice d’Auvergne to sit in Parliament, there to witness such insults, leveled at her deceased sister’s report. To the utter dismay and consternation of many, the Prime Minister lambasted the Committee Report, calling it otiose; meaning: ‘serving no practical purpose, not required, functionless, and futile;’ – laughable even.
After five long years of laborious work during which the committee interviewed hundreds of Saint Lucians from far and wide, and having carefully recorded what these Saint Lucians had to say, a report was presented to Prime Minister Anthony, the person who appointed the committee. That report was allowed to lie dormant whilst it was meticulously studied by a ‘Constitutional Lawyer,’ Prime Minister, Kenny Anthony.
‘By their deeds ye shall know them.’ The delay in presenting the report of the Committee to Parliament should have alerted observers that the recommended provisions, or parts thereof, did not sit well with the Prime Minister. Observers arriving at such a conclusion were quickly proven correct when, during the debate, the Prime Minister and his old side kick, Philip Pierre, literally tore the committee’s recommendations to pieces.
To diminish the powers of the Prime Minister and to give constituents the power of recall was a strong and persistent recommendation from the people interviewed. The government objected to these recommendations because they interpreted it to be about them and not about what the electorate wanted. The process of cobbling a new constitution is for the future guidance and happiness of the people – everyone!
Morals, manners, etiquette, class and decorum went crying to heaven for vengeance on the parliament floor the day of that debate. Those who witnessed the vulgar performance may have wished for a constitutional ‘Rite of Passage’ demanding etiquette, manners and morals from those who seek to enter parliament. Perhaps the people who recommended that, an MP ought to serve in his constituency and not be automatically handed a portfolio, are onto something.
Finally, of the mountain of agenda items crowding the United Workers Party manifesto, one of them ought to be a fresh look at the Suzie d’Auvergne Constitution Review Report.