Note: My Professional Writing lecturer asked my class to write a “100-word” evaluation of something. I wrote the following. At first I had decided against sharing these publicly. Please bear in mind that these are my personal opinions and are separate from the objective reports of I Witness-News.
On October 27, 1979, when the British granted the Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) its independence, it also handed the nation a constitution, similar to those taken off its conveyor belt and sent to other former colonies.
Twenty-four years later, in 2003, in an unprecedented show of unity, both the government and the parliamentary opposition agreed that the time had come to consult with citizens to make the constitution more reflective of Vincentian thinking and contemporary realities. Six years after that effort began, with the country on the verge of celebrating its 30th year of political independence and with a proposed new constitution tabled, the government and opposition have launched campaigns to canvass for “yes” and “no” votes respectively. (Read an†in-dept†report of the arguments for and against the proposed constitution)
The opposition has withdrawn it support and claims that the Constitutional Reform Commission has not met its “seminal challenge” of making the country a republic, reducing the powers of the prime minister and deepening the rights and freedoms of citizens. But when its support was first withdrawn a few years ago, the opposition had said that it was doing so, calling for the removal of the Supervisor of Election because of alleged incompetence, the long delay in the publishing of the report on the general elections of December 2005, the removal of an election campaign billboard from Sion Hill, a community outside capital city Kingstown, and for a government senator to declare how he knew how many persons from a particular ethnic group had voted for him.
The Supervisor of Election, whose contract came to an end, has been replaced; the election report has been tabled; the billboard mysteriously burned down; and, the senator has said that he came to his conclusion based on party intelligence and that the secrecy of the ballot had not been compromised. While all of the opposition’s initial concerns have been addressed and even amid their admission that the proposed constitution is in many regards an advance on the existing one, they are still calling for citizens to vote “no” in the referendum on November 25th. (Read my musing on religion)
With general elections about one year away, private citizens and analysts alike have made clamoring calls for the government to postpone the referendum saying that the proposed constitution can be further improved. There is a fear that the years of effort and financial resources will be wasted if Vincentians vote for their party rather than on the proposed constitution.
It has become clear that both political parties are using the referendum as an election gauge. The prime minister is adamant about a November 25th referendum, some say, hoping that the results of the vote will give some indication of his party’s chances at the next general elections. By asking its supporters to vote “no”, others say, the opposition is also analyzing its chances of taking the reins of governance after the next general elections.
In all of this, one thing remains clear, if the existing attitudes to the proposed constitution continues to prevail and Vincentians vote on the document anytime before the next general elections, one clear loser will emerge: St. Vincent and the Grenadines.