Chained or un­chained, politi­cians un­changed . . . KENNY KNOWS BEST!

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony (left) and con­sti­tu­tion re­form com­mis­sioner David Cox share a happy mo­ment.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE -

N ever mind the post­hu­mous praise heaped on the de­parted Jus­tice Suzie d’Au­vergne and the os­ten­ta­tious con­grat­u­la­tions of­fered her sur­viv­ing team, it seems the re­port they sub­mit­ted fell far short of the of­fi­cial ex­pec­ta­tion—at any rate, judg­ing by the tele­vised House re­view of the sub­mit­ted pro­pos­als for con­sti­tu­tional re­form. By of­fi­cial ac­count, on 17 Fe­bru­ary 2004, par­lia­ment “unan­i­mously” au­tho­rized the es­tab­lish­ment of a Con­sti­tu­tional Re­form Com­mis­sion “to ex­am­ine and to re­port in writ­ing the com­mis­sion’s opin­ions and rec­om­men­da­tions for pos­si­ble

re­form of this coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion. (My em­pha­sis)

The com­mis­sion was re­quired through broad-based con­sul­ta­tions with Saint Lu­cians ev­ery­where “to re­view and re­form the con­sti­tu­tion in or­der to en­cour­age ef­fec­tive gov­er­nance, to en­sure that the in­sti­tu­tions of state re­main strong and re­spon­sive and that the rights and free­doms guar­an­teed to all per­sons be re­spected.”

The un­der­tak­ing also sought to “pro­mote a mean­ing­ful ex­pan­sion and widen­ing of demo­cratic par­tic­i­pa­tion by cit­i­zens in the pro­cesses of gov­ern­ment; ad­dress pos­si­ble weak­nesses in the con­sti­tu­tional frame­work which po­lit­i­cal prac­tice had high­lighted over the years; re­fash­ion the con­sti­tu­tion so that it bet­ter ac­corded with our chang­ing so­cial and po­lit­i­cal cir­cum­stances; and pro­mote bet­ter gov­er­nance and greater eq­uity in the con­sti­tu­tional frame­work gen­er­ally.”

Typ­i­cally, “although the res­o­lu­tion was pub­lished in the Gazette of 16 July 2004 . . . it was not un­til 18 Novem­ber 2005 that the com­mis­sion was able for­mally to launch and present its mis­sion to the Saint Lu­cian public.” Why the de­lay? Un­de­clared “var­i­ous ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ters” first had to be set­tled. Then there were the work­shops de­signed to ed­u­cate the com­mis­sion on mat­ters con­sti­tu­tional, not to say un­told “con­sul­ta­tions” with groups of Saint Lu­cians.

In other words, there is lit­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween what went on at the time of the costly so-called OECS Ini­tia­tive that went nowhere and the sub­ject now be­ing dis­cussed that of­fers fur­ther proof of how self-con­vinced are our elected politi­cians of our plan­ta­tion-slave sta­tus. A bold state­ment, yes. But hardly hy­per­bolic.

At the risk of be­ing de­clared a glut­ton for pun­ish­ment, I in­vite you to re­visit with me last Tues­day’s spe­cial House Ses­sion, per­chance to ex­am­ine some nuggets from the con­tri­bu­tion of the tem­po­rar­ily “un­chained” deputy prime min­is­ter and Castries East MP, Philip J. Pierre: “Mr. Speaker, I be­lieve that the trend or the belief that politi­cians can get in­volved in cor­rupt prac­tices is some­thing we must try to dis­pel. There have been ma­jor scan­dals. The fi­nan­cial scan­dals in the world were not caused by politi­cians. In fact FIFA had a pol­icy that politi­cians should not be in­volved. But look at the cri­sis at FIFA. To tell young peo­ple that all the crises in the world are caused by politi­cians, and that they should

be con­trolled, not al­lowed to be­come gov­ern­ment min­is­ters, I think that’s a false premise.” Re­mem­ber, dear reader: what was on the ta­ble were pro­pos­als for pos­si­ble con­sti­tu­tional re­form. And any­way, was Jack Warner, when he was pre­par­ing him­self for self-emo­la­tion, not a FIFA-con­nected politi­cian?

More Pierre nuggets: “Mr. Speaker, I will make a state­ment to­day which I’m sure I’ll be at­tacked for. It con­cerns the idea that politi­cians should not be paid a salary. In these rec­om­men­da­tions all the con­trols are only for par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. There are no con­trols for the peo­ple who would be in the [pro­posed] so-called Cab­i­net . . . These pro­vi­sions make the job of prime min­is­ter al­most . . . I mean they strip the prime min­is­ter of all the power the prime min­is­ter can have. What it means is that the peo­ple from out­side, who are not elected, have the right, the priv­i­lege, to make rules and dic­tate to elected peo­ple what to do. And the prime min­is­ter must be at the whims and fancies of these peo­ple. Our sys­tem dic­tates that the prime min­is­ter must have some mea­sure of con­trol over the peo­ple in gov­ern­ment ser­vices. I’m sure a busi­ness­man would like to have some mea­sure of con­trol over his em­ploy­ees.”

The busi­ness­man-em­ploy­ees theme had for years plagued Philip J. Pierre. It still has not reg­is­tered in the MP’s brain that he, the prime min­is­ter and oth­ers “in gov­ern­ment ser­vices” are ser­vants in the em­ploy of, and there­fore al­ways ac­count­able to, the peo­ple.

As for the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice: “I know there are many peo­ple who op­pose the CCJ for emo­tional rea­sons, for belief that we can­not do for our­selves, be­cause we have no self-con­fi­dence. The CCJ should be part of our con­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments. There are enough judges, le­gal scholars, who can opine on a case based on the prin­ci­ples of law and jus­tice.”

The greater truth is that the un­mer­ited lack of faith in the CCJ has less to do with the tal­ent of judges than with the seem­ingly un­shak­able pop­u­lar belief that politi­cians, most of whom are with­out con­science, will have more op­por­tu­nity to in­flu­ence CCJ de­ci­sions than is pos­si­ble with the Privy Coun­cil. But Pierre, who in­sists de­spite the over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence, that politi­cians don’t de­serve their nasty rep­u­ta­tion, did not go there!

He also ex­pressed the view that po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns should be un­der­taken at public ex­pense and that “some form of party fi­nanc­ing should come from the Con­sol­i­dated Fund.” Pierre be­lieves, too, the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion should be strength­ened, “be­cause what we must not make the young gen­er­a­tion be­lieve is that politi­cians and par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are in a dis­hon­or­able pro­fes­sion . . . Mr. Speaker, the idea that you must bring the politi­cian down is clear in this doc­u­ment; you must make politi­cians sec­ond class cit­i­zens be­cause they are crooks; they are cor­rupt; they can’t make right de­ci­sions; they are silly, they are stupid. I see it writ­ten all over.” If only the MP would un­der­stand that re­fer­ring to your­self as “the hon­or­able” in no way guar­an­tees you are in­deed hon­or­able!

Pierre re­ferred to page 233 of the doc­u­ment un­der dis­cus­sion: “The idea of guar­an­tees again speaks to the whole Rochamel sit­u­a­tion, Mr. Speaker. It comes back to the same sit­u­a­tion that some­how elec­tion de­ci­sion mak­ers can­not make the right de­ci­sions.”

Ac­tu­ally, this is what page 233 says, with ref­er­ence to Sec­tion 41 of the Fi­nance Ad­min­is­tra­tion Act: “The com­mis­sion re­viewed the find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions of the Ram­sa­hoye Re­port as to the ad­e­quacy of Sec­tions 38, 39 and 41 and also con­sid­ered the nu­mer­ous sub­mis­sions to the com­mis­sion on this mat­ter. Af­ter due con­sid­er­a­tion, the com­mis­sion con­cluded that the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Ram­sa­hoye Com­mis­sion of In­quiry with re­gards to the act and fi­nan­cial ac­count­abil­ity in gen­eral, should be adopted and im­ple­mented. In par­tic­u­lar, the com­mis­sion con­cluded that ev­ery guar­an­tee given by the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia, if not given un­der an en­act­ment, be put be­fore par­lia­ment for prior ap­proval by res­o­lu­tion with full de­tails of the amount guar­an­teed and the ob­ject and the rea­sons for giv­ing the guar­an­tee.”

Pierre quickly dis­missed the above-stated rec­om­men­da­tion as fur­ther proof the com­mis­sion be­lieved “elected de­ci­sion mak­ers can­not make the right de­ci­sions.”

Another bee in Pierre’s bon­net—the rec­om­mended power of re­call. “These things sound very nice for peo­ple who are talk­ing,” he said, “but the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is not what is ever thought of. How do you re­call a par­lia­men­tar­ian? What is the ba­sis? You say he hasn’t per­formed in his con­stituency. If you have a sys­tem where the par­lia­men­tar­ian is given a cer­tain level of re­sources to man­age him­self, then you have the power of re­call. But if the par­lia­men­tar­ian hasn’t got the re­sources, how can you re­call him?” Yes, in­deed, last Tues­day was a day for mind-bog­gling

non se­quiturs.

He came to the big ques­tions: “Has the con­sti­tu­tion served us well? Has it done what it was sup­posed to do? Has it cre­ated any crises? If I look back I would say we like to shoot our­selves in the feet. The fact is that the peo­ple are the ones to tell us how to run the coun­try and not any group of men or women who be­lieve they have bet­ter brains, or who do not want to take the has­sle and the pres­sure of run­ning for po­lit­i­cal of­fice but want to con­sti­tu­tion­alise their po­si­tion to tell peo­ple what to do. They be­lieve, prob­a­bly be­cause of their ed­u­ca­tion, their back­ground or their class or fi­nan­cial sta­tus that they have the right to dic­tate what’s hap­pen­ing in this coun­try. And I see that clearly in some of the pro­vi­sions of the re­port. I see that clearly.”

Ob­vi­ously the praise ear­lier show­ered on the Suzie d’Au­vergne Com­mis­sion was of the ful­some va­ri­ety. Sud­denly the com­mis­sion had in the eyes of Philip J. Pierre turned into a group of elit­ist wannabe dic­ta­tors!

The prime min­is­ter in his turn was liv­ing proof that all that glit­ters is not gold. He im­pres­sively traced the history of the Con­sti­tu­tion that by Pierre’s mea­sure had served this coun­try well, but the prime min­is­ter care­fully avoided men­tion­ing how suc­ces­sive prime min­is­ters had treated the Con­sti­tu­tion. Had he been more forth­com­ing, he might’ve men­tioned the dic­ta­to­rial ad­ven­tures of his de­ceased pre­de­ces­sor John Comp­ton and the in­fa­mous 1979 trans­mo­gri­fi­ca­tion of Wil­liam Peter Boule­vard and the cur­rent prime min­is­ter’s role—his party’s at any rate—on the ex­cre­men­ti­tious oc­ca­sion. He might also have re­vis­ited Gryn­berg and the ear­lier Rochamel dis­as­ters, if only to prove how some who had sworn to pro­tect our con­sti­tu­tion had made a habit of defe­cat­ing on it.

In­stead the prime min­is­ter spoke like a true politi­cian at elec­tion time. He said: “We have proved we, gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion, can work to­gether in defin­ing our strate­gic in­ter­ests.” And what ex­actly were those “strate­gic in­ter­ests?”

The prime min­is­ter went on: “Those who say we can­not work to­gether in the in­ter­ests of this coun­try, you have a liv­ing ex­am­ple be­fore you. Here we are: one po­lit­i­cal party cre­ated a com­mis­sion to re­view the Con­sti­tu­tion, another po­lit­i­cal party came into of­fice and they ac­cepted it. They pro­vided fur­ther re­sources, they were rep­re­sented on the com­mis­sion, the then gov­ern­ment when it was in op­po­si­tion did not with­draw per­sons whom it had ap­pointed to the com­mis­sion, the work was al­lowed to con­tinue.”

In­evitably, the worm in the ap­ple soon emerged: “Of course, Mr. Speaker, some of the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions are otiose. Clas­sic ex­am­ple: the com­mis­sion in its wis­dom spoke against cit­i­zen­ship by in­vest­ment but we have de­cided oth­er­wise. We have pro­ceeded to en­act leg­is­la­tion to give ef­fect to it.”

The more things change. One week be­fore the re­form pro­pos­als came be­fore the House, the voice of the peo­ple had been turned off and what they had said about eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship de­ter­mined not wor­thy of se­ri­ous at­ten­tion. The peo­ple had spo­ken via a com­mis­sion, our om­nipo­tent leader had heard them and then de­cided he alone knew what’s best for us. In any event, the prime min­is­ter some­what con­ve­niently be­lieved the com­mis­sion had “not prop­erly in­ter­preted the will of the peo­ple.”

He re­minded the House that “a re­port of a com­mis­sion is a prod­uct of the times; it cap­tures the pas­sions of the mo­ment, the pre­oc­cu­pa­tions of the peo­ple, and I might add that those who feel there has been an ob­ses­sive pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the pow­ers of the prime min­is­ter. We can bet­ter un­der­stand it if we put it in the con­text of the times. We on this side had just emerged from an elec­tion that we had lost. The then ad­min­is­tra­tion, led by my­self, was painted as ar­ro­gant, abu­sive, all those words, more ad­jec­tives, and I don’t need to re­peat them. Ev­ery­one here knows what I’m say­ing.

“We were re­placed by a suc­ces­sor ad­min­is­tra­tion, and try as the for­mer prime min­is­ter might, that ad­min­is­tra­tion also raised ques­tions re­gard­ing the pow­ers of the prime min­is­ter. I think the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia, caught up in the mo­ment, caught up in the con­text of the times, found them­selves per­haps pre­oc­cu­pied with the lim­its of the power of the prime min­is­ter.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “While ob­vi­ously we must en­sure that we an­swer to the rules of our democ­racy and al­low for citizen par­tic­i­pa­tion, we must not cre­ate a model that leads to any kind of paral­y­sis.”

But then, what bet­ter op­por­tu­nity could a peo­ple have for study­ing the power of their prime min­is­ter than when cir­cum­stances—of­ten cre­ated by power-hun­gry politi­cians— place him be­tween a rock and a harder place? And if the peo­ple should feel the need to de­cide in a par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion, then should the peo­ple’s am­bi­tions be thwarted? Why shouldn’t they re­ceive due re­spect by their elected rep­re­sen­tives? Well, not if the peo­ple’s de­ci­sion seeks to limit prime min­is­te­rial au­thor­ity over them, ob­vi­ously!

The prime min­is­ter de­ter­mined fi­nally that the peo­ple’s pro­pos­als are in need of fur­ther anal­y­sis. He promised he and his col­leagues would set up a spe­cial com­mit­tee for the pur­pose. Mean­while, he will re­tain all his pow­ers, given and taken, in­clud­ing the power to tell the com­mit­tee, if ever it should ma­te­ri­al­ize, what to do with its own pro­pos­als.

I re­peat: the more things change . . .

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony: On Tues­day he de­cided the Suzie d’Au­vergne Re­port did not re­flect the wishes of the peo­ple and sent the Con­sti­tu­tion Re­form

Pro­pos­als back to the draw­ing board, hope­fully not to gather dust!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.