December 08, 2009

Letter: The people decided! Stop misrepresenting us
Published on Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Source: Caribbean Net News

Dear Sir:

In an article posted on 27th November 2009 on entitled “St Vincent: PM Gonsalves blanks snap poll”, Dr Gonsalves is quoted as explaining that by rejecting the proposed new constitution in the referendum on November 25, 2009, Vincentians have "freed him from a restraint". This is misleading and misrepresents us. Whilst the constitution bill 2009 proposed to give a specific period (not date) when elections would be called in the future if it had passed, it was not yet law. Thus the Prime minister was still under the existing constitution of 1979 which allows him to call what we have often referred to as "snap elections".

Nobody could have freed the prime minister from something that never bound him! He should stop trying to make us look silly by his misleading talk. I despise this speech coming from a leader of government, concerning his people, just because he has not truly accepted their choice. Furthermore, I am concerned at the way Vincentians are being represented as stupid and dotish to the region. Certain issues which were highlighted in our reform process are being misrepresented by pieces I have read and heard from journalists in the region:

1. The people did not, for example, vote to keep the queen and not have our own head of state in a president, as I've heard it is being presented. The opposition called for a president too but they wanted a president who would be elected by the people and not the house of assembly. In other words the people wanted more than a titular president, more than what would have essentially been a governor general named president.

2. This talk about Vincentians preferring to stay behind in colonialism rather than moving forward is not true and talking with people on the ground here will assist in correcting this misrepresentation of us. It is a forward stand to reject a bill that was against God-given rights and freedoms and the prime minister and drafters who sought to push it down our throats. It is the PM and his cabinet running this country and who proposed the dead bill, not the Queen.

3. The proposed bill has also been touted as one which "effectively restored the death penalty" and as such Vincentians are represented as having rejected the death penalty by voting no. The truth is the proposal did not restore the death penalty as the death penalty is still the punishment for murder recognized on our law books. Furthermore, the proposal in the bill which Vincentians killed on November 25th did not guarantee automatic carrying out of the death penalty. It merely stated that parliament would now define killing that is capital and killing that is not.

4. Vincentians did not say no to the CCJ on November 25th. It is misleading to say that the proposed bill would have automatically put us on the CCJ if we had said yes. What the bill in fact proposed was to remove the referendum requirement in the future from any bill brought to substitute the Privy Council with another court (it did not say CCJ) and it spoke about another court either with OECS or CARICOM countries or any other country or countries. It said that instead of having to go to the people in a referendum to decide this, such a bill would only require a simple majority of votes in the house of parliament/assembly. That is the fact! Vincentians were upset because we did not want to give up our votes in a referendum to decide on this single issue. One has to also remember that this was brought in a whole document with so many other issues to be decided on in one referendum. There was no attempt to do this by amendments.

A matter as serious as where Vincentians go for final appeals should not be strung together with other issues. It should be a separate matter by itself for careful study, consideration and then a vote in a referendum. Let the full story and truth be told.

We are a wise people here. We voted no against government's refusal to put a beautiful phrase into our preamble that strengthened the principles upon which we are founded by declaring our rights to be God-given and inalienable. We said no because government refused to define "adequate compensation" for compulsorily acquired property as "not less than current market value" and so many other reasons too. And since we had no choice to say yes to all or no to all, since we were not allowed to vote by amendments, we had to consider the things that were most against us and vote no...Not to constitution reform, not to a people elected president, not to the CCJ if the people say in a separate referendum they want it, not to moving from colonialism. We voted no for our freedoms!

May God have mercy upon us for the evil tarnishing that has been done to our reputation. The truth is there to be told however.

Anesia Baptiste
Associate Director
Thusian Institute for Religious Liberty Inc.
St Vincent & the Grenadines

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