A Con­sti­tu­tion can be writ­ten on the Back of a Postage Stamp

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

God Almighty first framed a con­sti­tu­tion. He made it in the form of Ten Com­mand­ments in­scrib­ing them with His own fin­ger on two tablets of stone. There is no bet­ter tem­plate. The same were stamped on the fleshy tablets of our hearts and re­side in our con­science, guid­ing us as to when to say “Yes”, and when to say, “No”, thus dis­tin­guish­ing for us what is right and what is wrong, in­stinc­tively. Though the Cre­ator of all things, He al­lowed the in­ter­play of free will in the choices we make. And to show how ab­hor­rent gov­ern­ing by dic­ta­tion was to Him, the fullest and emp­ti­est of men were all placed on the same foot­ing, by making very plain his laws to them.

De­par­ture from those Com­mand­ments, es­pe­cially mur­der, adul­tery, theft, false wit­ness­ing, hon­our­ing par­ents and love of neigh­bour, has been the ru­ina­tion of na­tions and the bane of fam­ily and so­ci­etal life. So in aban­don­ing here our means to a demi-par­adise, we at the same time miss the stair­way to that land of milk and honey in the here­after.

When His time came, nearly 2000 years ago, Christ construed, re­con­structed and con­firmed the Ten Com­mand­ments in the fol­low­ing five words in an­swer to a Doc­tor of the Law: “Love thy neigh­bour as thy­self” which is ‘like’ love of God. Still the five words are re­duc­ible to a sin­gle word, ‘love’, which does not de­light in ‘evil’ and “keeps no record of wrongs” says the Good Book. Since, there­fore, “it per­fects all things”, no act done bear­ing its mark could be harm­ful to a na­tion or its cit­i­zens, re­gard­less of who is at the com­mand cen­tre of its af­fairs.

I have pref­aced my thoughts on the pro­posed new con­sti­tu­tion in that man­ner, only to em­pha­size that a con­sti­tu­tion can be writ­ten on the back of a postage stamp in those five words, leav­ing de­tails to be in­cor­po­rated by ref­er­ence. This all-en­com­pass­ing Com­mand­ment, “Love thy neigh­bour as thy­self”, is in con­so­nance with that self­evi­dent truth enun­ci­ated at the be­gin­ning of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence of the United States of Amer­ica in 1776, ex­pressed in five words only: “All men are cre­ated equal”. And in the French Dec­la­ra­tion of the Rights of 1789 it is re­flected in three divine words: Lib­erté, Egal­ité et Fra­ter­nité (Free­dom, Equal­ity and Broth­er­hood).

In ex­am­in­ing our own 1979 con­sti­tu­tion it can be said that the spirit of those egal­i­tar­ian French and Amer­i­can prin­ci­ples is alive in the pre­am­ble to ours by its recog­ni­tion of the eq­ui­table con­cept of distribu­tive jus­tice, as it clothes the sub­stan­tive pro­vi­sions, thus: “The op­er­a­tion of the eco­nomic sys­tem should re­sult in the ma­te­rial re­sources of the com­mu­nity be­ing dis­trib­uted as to sub-serve the com­mon good . . . that there should be ad­e­quate liveli­hood for all.”

That, clearly, is the man­i­festo ev­ery po­lit­i­cal party is bound to fol­low; it is in keep­ing with the oath that ev­ery con­sti­tu­tional monarch takes: “to do jus­tice”. In fact, even ab­so­lute mon­archs swore: “To do right, jus­tice and dis­cre­tion in mercy and in truth”.

So when we, with a free con­sti­tu­tion, act as if we are a law unto our­selves, we make even ab­so­lute mon­archs look like an­gels, and ex­pul­sion from of­fice be­comes an im­per­a­tive duty.

It is to be noted that that fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple of ‘distribu­tive jus­tice’ in our con­sti­tu­tion came af­ter an af­fir­ma­tion of “faith in the supremacy of the Almighty God”, the first prin­ci­ple in the pre­am­ble. And there it is also rec­og­nized that “ap­point­ments should be made on the ba­sis of the recog­ni­tion of merit, abil­ity and in­tegrity”, not par­ti­san­ship, thereby es­tab­lish­ing a mer­i­toc­racy. It is there that our con­sti­tu­tion shows its ge­nius.

Any group of men, there­fore, who vowed to ob­serve those fun­da­men­tals in the pre­am­ble need no writ­ten con­sti­tu­tion to guide them as it would have al­ready been in­jected into their blood streams in the Ten Com­mand­ments, ‘ one jot or tit­tle’ of which has not been changed to this day, since the time of Moses. But be­cause men have be­come ‘ des­per­ately wicked’ and ‘ nasty and brutish’, con­sti­tu­tions have been de­signed to en­sure ‘gov­ern­ment of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple, for the peo­ple’ and not chiefly for supporters and friends.

In my long ago stud­ies on the sub­ject of ‘Con­sti­tu­tions’, from doc­u­ments which give di­rec­tions as to how a coun­try should be gov­erned, I com­mit­ted to mem­ory two ba­sic ideas, each of which must be fol­lowed in or­der to bring about, “the great­est hap­pi­ness for the great­est num­ber”. The first looks like a sum­ma­tion of the Com­mis­sion­ers’ Re­port headed by our Suzie D’Au­vergne, and I am en­chanted by it. Ge­orges Bi­dault, Prime Min­is­ter of France in 1948 and 1958, as­sents: “The good or bad for­tune of a na­tion de­pends on three fac­tors: its con­sti­tu­tion, the way the con­sti­tu­tion is made to work, and the re­spect it in­spires”. The French­man hit the nail on the head. His ad­mo­ni­tion is elo­quently cap­tured by the Com­mis­sion of 22 who lamented that there was: “. . . a wide­spread be­lief that our con­sti­tu­tion con­demns us to a sit­u­a­tion in which our gov­ern­ments once elected seem be­yond our abil­ity to re­strain or to in­flu­ence”. I felt bound to sug­gest else­where that Chair­per­son D’Au­vergne de­served to “be epit­o­mized in an epi­taph to her.”

My next en­chanter was Lord Ac­ton. In a 1987 let­ter to Bishop Crighton he warned: “Power tends to cor­rupt and ab­so­lute power cor­rupts ab­so­lutely.” Here, again, the Com­mis­sion was be­moan­ing a ten­dency that had been “wide­spread”.

For all the rea­sons stated here (and out­lined in my ar­ti­cle of the 31st Oc­to­ber last, en­ti­tled, “Is it our Con­sti­tu­tion or Men who need Re­mod­elling?” I have, de­spite my age, set my­self the mon­u­men­tal task of ex­am­in­ing not only the form that a demo­cratic gov­ern­ment should take, but the pow­ers that should re­side in its var­i­ous con­stituents parts, to avoid waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture, par­ti­san pol­i­tics, cor­rup­tion, vic­tim­iza­tion, high­hand­ed­ness and worse. In this re­gard, the rec­om­men­da­tion for stand­ing com­mit­tees to con­trol all mat­ters of a fi­nan­cial na­ture is la pièce de re­sis­tance, the main course.

In that ex­er­cise, much care will be taken to en­sure that power is not con­cen­trated in the hands of any one per­son, but is so dif­fused that lim­its can­not be tran­scended. Thus there will be a strict sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers to keep par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and of­fi­cials straight-jack­eted. No longer will a scare­crow be made of the con­sti­tu­tion. It will be pro­tected like a citadel with moats, elec­tri­fied barbed wire fences and ditches, hedges and bat­tle­ments, can­non and mine­fields. Such will be the na­ture of the checks and bal­ances. No longer will the taxes drawn from the sweat of our brows be left un­guarded for decades. And ev­ery cit­i­zen will de­light in the knowl­edge that his ev­ery five dol­lar is be­ing spent as if it were a twenty dol­lar bill.

It is to be noted that that fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple of ‘distribu­tive jus­tice’ in our con­sti­tu­tion came af­ter an af­fir­ma­tion of “faith in the supremacy of the

Almighty God”, the first prin­ci­ple in the Pre­am­ble.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.