WHAT CON­STI­TU­TION?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

Ask a lo­cal lawyer what had in­spired his or her choice of pro­fes­sion and more of­ten than not they will re­fer to their so­cial con­science and an un­con­trol­lable de­sire to help the de­prived and the down­trod­den. Why then have so many de­serted con­ceiv­ably lu­cra­tive law prac­tices in fa­vor of rel­a­tively min­i­mum-wage pol­i­tics, also widely con­sid­ered among the most cor­rup­tive of oc­cu­pa­tions?

We might also ask why Shake­speare had placed the fol­low­ing in the mouth of one of the char­ac­ters in Henry The

Sixth: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Why not also the politi­cians, whether or not si­mul­ta­ne­ously? Did the Bard carry a se­cret grudge against lawyers? Or were the lawyers he wanted dead also politi­cians?

I was taken aback last week by the per­sis­tent calls from four or five im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fi­able in­di­vid­u­als for Mary Isaac’s res­ig­na­tion as CSA pres­i­dent, on the premise that her re­cent ac­cep­tance of a se­nate seat made her po­si­tion with the public sec­tor union un­ten­able.

“Con­flict of in­ter­est!” shouted her de­trac­tors.

Mean­while the House had voted in fa­vor of ad­just­ing the ex­ist­ing elec­toral bound­aries so that four new con­stituen­cies were in con­se­quence cre­ated, an in­crease from 17 to 21. Based largely on its nu­mer­i­cal com­po­si­tion the gov­ern­ment suc­cess­fully ar­gued—again with­out ev­i­dence—that a greater num­ber of par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives guar­an­teed con­stituents “proper rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

No need to de­fine the quoted phrase. The only at­tempts at jus­ti­fi­ca­tion cen­tered on the self-serv­ing sug­ges­tion (again with­out ev­i­dence!) that “in the con­text of lo­cal pol­i­tics, the peo­ple are not sat­is­fied just with see­ing us on TV. They want to meet and feel us”—es­pe­cially at elec­tion time when politi­cians are un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally gen­er­ous.

As ab­surd as was the num­bers ar­gu­ment it was, by all last week’s House de­bate re­vealed, the con­sen­sus at the most re­cent Bound­aries Com­mis­sion meet­ing that com­prised four politi­cians and the House Speaker in the po­si­tion of chair­man.

Iron­i­cally, when­ever Mary Isaac’s sup­port­ers cite her con­sti­tu­tional right to free as­so­ci­a­tion, her de­trac­tors counter with the pre­pos­ter­ous pre­sump­tion that a UWP se­na­tor can­not be faith­ful to the agenda of the Civil Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion—membership of which, by all I’ve heard over the air­waves, com­prises only sup­port­ers of the St. Lu­cia Labour Party and the United Work­ers Party. Ev­i­dently the 3000-strong union has no room for free thinkers!

No one seemed to care that our Con­sti­tu­tion, orig­i­nally au­thored by our for­mer (?) colo­nial masters, then re­tooled in 1979 with the as­sis­tance of in­di­vid­u­als who never an­tic­i­pated the In­ter­net, may now be an im­ped­i­ment to our progress—ef­fec­tively, an en­slav­ing barb-wired fence.

It would ap­pear that when he first took of­fice in 1997, hav­ing aban­doned his con­sti­tu­tional-law lec­turer’s job at UWI, Kenny An­thony was con­cerned about as­pects of our elec­tion ma­chin­ery.

Barely three months af­ter re­plac­ing Vaughan Lewis as prime min­is­ter, he had writ­ten on the sub­ject to the deputysec­re­tary gen­eral of the Com­mon­wealth Sec­re­tariat in Lon­don, re­quest­ing tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to Saint Lu­cia “with a view to en­sur­ing that the pop­u­la­tions of con­stituen­cies are in ac­cor­dance with the re­quire­ments of the Con­sti­tu­tion of Saint Lu­cia.”

By re­li­able ac­count “the as­sis­tance sought to be done at the ear­li­est to al­low for suf­fi­cient dis­cus­sion among all par­ties in or­der to fur­ther gov­ern­ment’s avowed in­ter­est in main­tain­ing the in­tegrity and trans­parency of the elec­toral process.”

More ev­i­dence that Kenny An­thony was not al­ways the Kenny An­thony we know to­day. Among the Sec­re­tariat’s ob­ser­va­tions: “The Con­stituency Bound­aries Com­mis­sion is gov­erned by Sec­tion 57 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. It cre­ated a 5-per­son body with the Speaker as chair­man and four mem­bers ap­pointed by the gover­nor gen­eral. Two mem­bers to be ap­pointed on the ad­vice of the prime min­is­ter and two on the ad­vice of the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion.

“Since the Speaker is elected by the ma­jor­ity party in the House, the chair­man was seen as a gov­ern­ment per­son, giv­ing the gov­ern­ment ef­fec­tive con­trol of the Com­mis­sion.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “This view is con­firmed by the min­utes of the four meet­ings the Com­mis­sion ap­pears to have con­vened since 1979. In spite of the last chair­man’s [de­ceased Wil­fred St. Clair Daniel] own as­ser­tion to the au­thor of this re­port that he found it ‘em­bar­rass­ing’ to have to take sides in th­ese meet­ings—where ev­ery­one voted on es­sen­tially po­lit­i­cal lines—the min­utes show that he pro­vided the ma­jor­ity for the gov­ern­ment mem­bers when­ever a de­ci­sion was made.”

In regular par­lance, Bound­aries Com­mis­sion meet­ings chaired by the House Speaker al­ways guar­an­teed victory for the gov­ern­ment side. If ever there was a con­tract be­tween slave owner and slave, Sec­tion 57 of our Con­sti­tu­tion is it!

But when I called last week to tell a show host the Speaker of the House, when he chairs meet­ings such as re­cently con­vened by the Bound­aries Com­mis­sion, ren­ders him­self vul­ner­a­ble to con­flict of in­ter­est al­le­ga­tions, the same voices that had com­plained about Mary Isaac’s “com­pro­mis­ing” po­si­tion re­tal­i­ated by re­mind­ing me that the Bound­aries Com­mis­sion was gov­erned by Sec­tion 57 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, ab­so­lutely legal, there­fore be­yond crit­i­cism.

Even the politi­cian-lawyer (here we go again) Richard Fred­er­ick called Newsspin in sup­port of the above view, as if in­deed legal were au­to­mat­i­cally syn­ony­mous with fair. If it were so, then the legal en­slave­ment of mil­lions of Africans was fair. As was Apartheid. As were the laws that per­mit­ted white­owned restau­rants to deny ser­vice to “col­oreds.”

Ob­vi­ously, for some, in­clud­ing lawyer-politi­cians, there is no such thing as an un­just law, never mind that it is de­fined by Dr. Martin Luther King in his Let­ter

from Birm­ing­ham Jail: “A just law is a man-made code that squares with moral law or the law of God. An un­just law is a code that is out of har­mony with the moral law.”

Dr. King’s def­i­ni­tion squares with the phi­los­o­phy of the Ro­mans dur­ing their em­pire: A just law is a law uni­ver­sally prac­ticed. Although slav­ery was uni­ver­sally used in their time, the Ro­mans them­selves con­sid­ered it in breach of moral law.

To re­turn to Dr. King: “One has not only a legal but a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity to obey just laws. Con­versely, one has a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity to dis­obey un­just laws.”

Let us not for­get our so-called Supreme Law was handed down to us by folks we con­temp­tu­ously re­fer to as “our for­mer colo­nial masters.” Why then do we, who are to­day in­de­pen­dent and free of colo­nial shack­les, con­tinue to re­tain on our statute books what clearly are un­just laws?

Laws that em­power the House Speaker and the Se­nate Pres­i­dent to do what is not in the in­ter­est of all the peo­ple must be re­formed. But close to 20 years af­ter the Com­mon­wealth Sec­re­tariat ad­vised the law is demon­stra­bly un­just that per­mits our gov­ern­ment to have its way at ev­ery meet­ing of the Bound­aries Com­mis­sion, Sec­tion 57, that is, re­mains un­changed.

At ses­sions of both our Up­per and Lower Houses our gov­ern­ment, re­gard­less of party color, re­mains in legal con­trol of de­bates via an ac­com­mo­dat­ing Se­nate Pres­i­dent and House Speaker.

Con­se­quently, the peo­ple have paid for loan guar­an­tees that we never knew had been given, among them guar­an­tees of loans to a bank­rupt air­line, Rochamel and Fren­well. We have seen our prime min­is­ters usurp the con­sti­tu­tional author­ity of the gover­nor gen­eral, with im­punity. And now of­fi­cially un­con­firmed re­ports in­di­cate the once se­cret Jack Gryn­berg mat­ter is to be determined by the ICSID on March 15.

But back to the be­lea­guered Mary Isaac who is count­ing on the pro­tec­tion of the Saint Lu­cia Con­sti­tu­tion even as the politi­cians and their echo-lytes with their Bru­tus dag­gers seek to be­head the CSA, whose pres­i­dent was thrice elected, the last time with 800 votes to her near­est ri­val’s 300.

Mean­while, the Con­sti­tu­tion is cited in sup­port of the ‘demokrasy’ that Sec­tion 57 rep­re­sents. How long be­fore we revert to the law of the jun­gle that serves only those with the big bat­tal­ions on their side?

Then again, per­haps the re­ver­sal has al­ready oc­curred while fool­ish vir­gins slept!

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony: If Bound­aries Com­mis­sion laws d

not in the brave new world of the age of

de­manded re­form in 1998, then why the In­ter­net?

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