Thursday, February 21, 2013
There have been certain significant developments over the last two months that have pointed to the operation of our Constitution and raised the question of constitutional reform. The first development was the clean sweep of all 12 seats in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) by the People's National Movement (PNM) leaving the opposition without a voice in the THA. Certain persons have been calling for some sort of appointment of non-elected assemblymen by the President of the Republic to correct this imbalance, which I honestly don't think falls within the President's powers ... but that is another story.
The second development was the election of a new President (and by the way, congratulations are in order to Mr. Carmona ... an excellent choice!) and all the "kerfuffle" that surrounded the process before the eventual nominee (Mr. Carmona) was announced.
It seemed to me that the opposition PNM was really making mountains out of molehills with their agitation before the announcement that Mr. Carmona was going to be the Government's nominee and they were singularly ungracious in their subsequent behaviour following the announcement. But again, that is also another story.
I had rather deliberately refrained from commenting on these matters for several reasons, not the least being that I really didn't feel like getting involved in any way in the politics and politicing that was taking place, nor did I feel like commenting on them. Maybe tomorrow or next week or next year I will comment on the politics again, but right now I am more concerned with trying to be part of a non-political process that will move our twin island Republic forward ... not to go around in circles.
What I really want to focus on is the simple question: is there a need for constitutional reform? If the answer is 'no', well there's an end to it. But if the answer is 'yes', then a number of sub-questions follow: why do you say that there is a need? What is working? What is not working? Where is our present Constitution falling short? Where, if necessary, can it be improved? Should we really have an executive President? If you think that we should, then why do you say so? If you think that we shouldn't, then why do you think not? What would be the advantages to us in having an executive President? What would the disadvantages be?
There are probably other questions that arise which I just can't think of at the moment, but my point here is that no serious or proper discussions on reforming or revising our Constitution unless and until we are all absolutely clear on what exactly we are trying to achieve. When we know what it is that we want to achieve then we can discuss intelligently how to go about it. You can't get an answer to anything when you don't know the question or the question is not clear.
I have ideas on whether reform is needed and what exactly we should do and I will put them forward in subsequent posts. At the moment, though, I prefer to begin this discussion simply by posing the questions and letting them sink in. This way I hope to direct everyone's minds to these serious issues and thus be better able to understand the subsequent posts on this subject. Incidentally, if you do have ideas on other questions that ought to be addressed or considered on this subject please let me know. My list is not meant to be conclusive.
So, watch this space if this is a topic that interests you. The next few posts will be dealing with it.
Posted by Robin Montano at 11:05 AM