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Constitutional reform needed

Published: 
Monday, November 7, 2011

There is an urgent need for Constitutional Reform. Our citizens have matured and the present constitution no longer serves the will of the people. The draft constitution put together by Sir Ellis Clarke in 2006 was designed to hijack the will of the people. A constitution must come from the bowels of society. “Where then do government’s powers come from?” The powers come from the people because it is the people who bring government into existence. Government does not preexist the citizenry (and their rights); instead, the government exists by favour of the citizenry. Thus, whenever the people wish to dismantle or abolish government, it is their right to do so, since the existence of government depends on the will of those who bring it into existence—that is, the people. (the Declaration and The Constitution—Jacob Humberger)

The current electoral system no longer serve its purpose—our society is still very much polarised along racial lines and institution which were appointed to deal with racial grievances remains non-functional partially because of political allegiances and its inter dependence on the state. We cannot have one community domineering over another our society must move forward. The results of the elections on May 24, 2010 is a prime example of the will of the people and we now have a coalition of political parties and interest group which formed the Government. We must observe the bedrock principle that the Constitution should emerge out of the collective aspirations will and judgment of the people of Trinidad and Tobago—this is keeping in line with the largest democracy (INDIA)in the world whose famed leader Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru of India who said in relation to the drafting of a constitution “this cannot be done by the wisest of lawyers sitting together in conclave; it cannot be done by small committees trying to balance interest and calling that constitution making it can never be done under the shadow of an external authority. It can only be done effectively when the political and psychological conditions are present, and the urge and sanctions come from the masses.”

I think that the time for constitutional reform is now since both the political and psychological conditions are present. The unification of political parties under the banner of the People’s Partnership together with other interest groups brought victory at the polls and it signalled the beginning of the end of racial politics in Trinidad and Tobago. Since our independence there were two Constitution Commissions which were successful in conducting consultations with the public and preparing a report, the Wooding Commission and the Hyatali Commission in the report of Hugh Wooding Constitution Commission after consultations was held with the People of Trinidad and Tobago a mixed system of Proportional Representation was recommended because it was felt that race is a most significant determinant of the political behaviour in Trinidad and Tobago. There was also a proposal called The Principles of Fairness document and The Working Document on Constitutional Reform.

The Hyatali Commission also agreed that the first past the post did not always recognise the will of the people and noted that the party with the minority votes always got more seats than the party with majority support. The Commission proposed a system of proportional representation as well. (Mr Rupert and Mr Shyankaran Lalla) former head of the Public Service Commission Kenneth R Lalla CMT SC said “A constitution is an organic document and malleable and should be subject to reform as and when the circumstances warrant to correct the social inequalities, economic injustices and racial imbalances and to impose institutional checks and balances on the Government in order to prevent the misuse and abuse of power?

In an article in the Trinidad Guardian dated May 25, 2009, Anand Ramlogan writing before he was appointed to the post of Attorney General said “The Westminster model cannot work in a racially based, tribal system of politics where political immaturity supports and condones political absurdity.” The UK law library on the making of a constitution indicates that the “Process has become equally as important as the content of the final document for the legitimacy of a new constitution.” “Further and critical for any successful process is engagement with the public: “... The People’s Partnership must move with dispatch in bringing Constitutional Reform to the people as promised during the election campaign because our current constitution have outlived its usefulness in ensuring equality.

Shyankaran Lalla
Via e-mail

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