Categorized | Editorial

Constitution Transparency: Opinions, suggestions, corrections must be publicised

EDITORIAL

The chairman of the Draft Constitution Education and Implementation Committee throughout the past four weeks has repeatedly reminded that his committee’s mandate was that of educating the public about the draft. He has during that time also promised that he was documenting suggestions and comments from those willing to submit them at the forums or otherwise. These issues and information from the Report must be made available to the media and the people.

Will these forum questions, suggestions, opinions within and outside (of the Committee) submissions, find themselves in the Committee’s report? And to whom will the report be given? Above all these questions, what is the obligation of the government who holds an overwhelming majority to say to the UK government, whether truthfully or otherwise it is because “they have the support of the majority of the population,” to take the issue for debate in the Legislative Council.

The UK Ministers require government to provide evidence of that support. Will they, and can they use the report of the Implementation Committee to say they have obtained that support? As at the end of that education program, can they honestly say that “there has been extensive consultation (with or without the assistance of a Constitutional Commissioner or Commission)?

These questions are most relevant, especially when considered the fact, that most of the government members tried to convince the world that there was more than ample time for the discussions and consultation to take place. Ample time of course, but the discussions and consultations were practically nil beyond 2002. And if there were, they were inadequate and inconsistent. However, to repeat a damning fact, no discussion, education or consultation whatsoever took place for the past three years leading up to that first debate. If the people really think that these matters should be left entirely up to the elected, then there is little worry.

By now, it should be patently clear that our legislators were not equipped or even expected to be so endowed, to by themselves, with advisers including the Governor, who had absolutely no vested interested in what or how much the Montserrat Constitution is decent or not, decide on such matters. As one contributor on issues of the draft Constitution puts it: “Some persons will point out that we practice representative Government, but I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest that the FCO Lawyers and the Select Committee of the whole House have truly captured the views and wishes of the people Montserrat in the present draft Constitution Order 2010.”

It is hoped also, that our legislators in government know by now, that there are matters on which they can speak freely from their conscience and disagree with the popular opinion or agreement of their Executive. A Constitution must be one of these. Please honourable gentlemen, tell the people the authority of your conscience.

Parliamentary Secretaries – should never be allowed to prevail in our Constitution. Others threw it away, the UK government does not have them, and they know what is wrong with it. At least if it is even out of hypocrisy, they demonstrate democracy. More signs of poor governance.With natural backbenchers or nominated members in whatever form, no one would have to excuse themselves and go to the washroom in the Legislative Council, just before a vote, to avoid voting their conscience.

Does our electoral process as promoted in the draft Constitution stand the test? Currently the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert Ramdin, is talking with Caribbean leaders, “stressing the importance of further democratizing the electoral processes in the Caribbean region.” How is democracy in Montserrat? What a great and opportune time to take the lead!

A few questions have revealed, “UK government Coalition Ministers were told that all of the members of the Montserrat Legislative Council had fully agreed to the text of the draft and they were expected to sign off on it without any further consultations.” That of course now is no secret, this draft Constitution was only to be made available to the people for mere information purposes. But at this stage the question must be answered, has anything different been done?

It was not the job of the Implementation Committee to point out that the entire draft is riddled with matters that will preserve the present government’s interests and their longevity. That there was little interest in letting go of poor electoral practices. That integrity and good governance were only matters of convenience to the government. That greed and dishonesty were legally implemented in our laws. That it was really in the best interest of our government, and yes, that of the public servants both, local and the UK to have the Constitution out of the way in its compromising manner.

The question may be asked right here, what is the Governor’s stake in this? None of this would be an issue if as Governor he had made it his priority to ensure the strengthening of civil society in Montserrat. That would ensure good governance, but the problem goes deeper than that.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

EDITORIAL

The chairman of the Draft Constitution Education and Implementation Committee throughout the past four weeks has repeatedly reminded that his committee’s mandate was that of educating the public about the draft. He has during that time also promised that he was documenting suggestions and comments from those willing to submit them at the forums or otherwise. These issues and information from the Report must be made available to the media and the people.

Will these forum questions, suggestions, opinions within and outside (of the Committee) submissions, find themselves in the Committee’s report? And to whom will the report be given? Above all these questions, what is the obligation of the government who holds an overwhelming majority to say to the UK government, whether truthfully or otherwise it is because “they have the support of the majority of the population,” to take the issue for debate in the Legislative Council.

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The UK Ministers require government to provide evidence of that support. Will they, and can they use the report of the Implementation Committee to say they have obtained that support? As at the end of that education program, can they honestly say that “there has been extensive consultation (with or without the assistance of a Constitutional Commissioner or Commission)?

These questions are most relevant, especially when considered the fact, that most of the government members tried to convince the world that there was more than ample time for the discussions and consultation to take place. Ample time of course, but the discussions and consultations were practically nil beyond 2002. And if there were, they were inadequate and inconsistent. However, to repeat a damning fact, no discussion, education or consultation whatsoever took place for the past three years leading up to that first debate. If the people really think that these matters should be left entirely up to the elected, then there is little worry.

By now, it should be patently clear that our legislators were not equipped or even expected to be so endowed, to by themselves, with advisers including the Governor, who had absolutely no vested interested in what or how much the Montserrat Constitution is decent or not, decide on such matters. As one contributor on issues of the draft Constitution puts it: “Some persons will point out that we practice representative Government, but I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest that the FCO Lawyers and the Select Committee of the whole House have truly captured the views and wishes of the people Montserrat in the present draft Constitution Order 2010.”

It is hoped also, that our legislators in government know by now, that there are matters on which they can speak freely from their conscience and disagree with the popular opinion or agreement of their Executive. A Constitution must be one of these. Please honourable gentlemen, tell the people the authority of your conscience.

Parliamentary Secretaries – should never be allowed to prevail in our Constitution. Others threw it away, the UK government does not have them, and they know what is wrong with it. At least if it is even out of hypocrisy, they demonstrate democracy. More signs of poor governance.With natural backbenchers or nominated members in whatever form, no one would have to excuse themselves and go to the washroom in the Legislative Council, just before a vote, to avoid voting their conscience.

Does our electoral process as promoted in the draft Constitution stand the test? Currently the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert Ramdin, is talking with Caribbean leaders, “stressing the importance of further democratizing the electoral processes in the Caribbean region.” How is democracy in Montserrat? What a great and opportune time to take the lead!

A few questions have revealed, “UK government Coalition Ministers were told that all of the members of the Montserrat Legislative Council had fully agreed to the text of the draft and they were expected to sign off on it without any further consultations.” That of course now is no secret, this draft Constitution was only to be made available to the people for mere information purposes. But at this stage the question must be answered, has anything different been done?

It was not the job of the Implementation Committee to point out that the entire draft is riddled with matters that will preserve the present government’s interests and their longevity. That there was little interest in letting go of poor electoral practices. That integrity and good governance were only matters of convenience to the government. That greed and dishonesty were legally implemented in our laws. That it was really in the best interest of our government, and yes, that of the public servants both, local and the UK to have the Constitution out of the way in its compromising manner.

The question may be asked right here, what is the Governor’s stake in this? None of this would be an issue if as Governor he had made it his priority to ensure the strengthening of civil society in Montserrat. That would ensure good governance, but the problem goes deeper than that.