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This beautiful land and the supremacy of our Constitution

Published: 
Sunday, August 31, 2014

Columbus arrived in 1498 and named her La Isla de la Trinidad or The Island of the Trinity. But long before he’d arrived, she already had a rich heritage, starting after the Ice Age some 30,000 years ago when the first Amerindians had entered the New World from Asia by crossing the Bering Straits. In those ancient days, she was still attached to the South American ancestral motherland.  

It was the Caribs and Arawaks who’d began to shape this country’s unique character before the arrival of colonists. The Arawaks had given her the beautiful name of Iere or the Land of the Humming Bird. The other related people were known as the Taíno, meaning “good” or “noble.” Since those ancient days, this country has welcomed many peoples to its shores who have infused her culture with beautiful traditions, cuisine, art and the kinetic energy of diversity.  

The bountiful, physical land still flourishes, although now abused. Scarlet Ibis birds continue to fly across the Orinoco as they did in earlier times, and the same mist the Caribs and Arawaks saw when they planted manioc and hunted for wild-meat is what we see today covering the mountains of El Tucuche and El Cero Del Aripo. 

And then there is the ocean spreading its waves around T&T, revealing now and then the secrets of ancient times sunken in her bed, and the beauty of its fullness with different hues reflecting passages of the day. There is peacefulness and strength of moonlit nights. 

Standing last in the Caribbean archipelago the moorings that keep this little mass of land stable are under threat of erosion. Those who love this land see and cherish not only her physical beauty, but the wisdom of the Constitution that guides our laws and democratic way of life. Its words resound with respect for the dignity of its citizens, their involvement in shaping their destiny, and sound principles by which they must be governed.  

It says the people have affirmed that the nation of T&T is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, and faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms. We affirmed the importance of the family in a society of free men and free institutions, the dignity of the human person and the equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family are endowed by their Creator.

We affirmed respect for the principles of social justice and belief that the economic system should result in the material resources of the community being so distributed as to serve the common good and that there should be adequate means of livelihood for all. We affirmed that labour should not be exploited or forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions, and must have an opportunity for advancement on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity. 

We asserted belief in a democratic society in which all persons may, to the extent of their capacity, play some part in the institutions of national life and thus develop and maintain due respect for lawfully constituted authority. 

We recognised that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is based upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law. The Constitution enshrined all these principles and beliefs and accordingly made provision to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

The Constitution says there shall continue to exist, without discrimination by reason of race, origin, colour, religion or sex, the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and that we must not be deprived thereof except by due process of law. The Constitution protects the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law, and the right of the individual to respect for his private and family life. 

It enshrines the right of the individual to equality of treatment from any public authority in the exercise of any functions, the right to join political parties and to express political views. A parent or guardian has the right to provide a school of their choice for the education of his/her child or ward. Freedom of movement, freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of the press are entrenched rights.

The Constitution is the country’s supreme law, and it must remain relevant and alive. Accordingly, it is subject to well-thought out and prudent changes from time to time. These changes must serve the common good and not partisan interests. 

The people own the Constitution and have collective custody and responsibility for the integrity of its principles. When citizens take a stand to protect these principles they are exercising an important civic duty. By extension, they must do so respectfully and condemn intimidation of Members of Parliament for acting in accordance with their conscience.

Happy Independence.