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Experts agree constitutional reform needed
Fifty years is too long for a nation as young as T&T to operate without substantial constitutional reform says director of the Police Complaints Authority Gillian Lucky. Lucky’s comments follow President George Maxwell Richard’s statement in his 50th anniversary of Independence message to the nation that constitutional reform was in “stasis.” Richards said reform was particularly important as it pertained to the governance of Tobago.
In a brief telephone interview , Lucky who is currently out of the country, said: “Constitutional reform is absolutely necessary especially in the context of a nation being 50 years independent with no major constitutional reform and many areas which require better systems to ensure accountability and transparency.”
She added that despite numerous public consultations on the issue, a lack of political will has stalled the process. “Unfortunately, there appears to be no policy to drive the reform and so the previous attempts have practically not translated to actual reform.”
“Tampering with our constitution should not be encouraged unless the population fully understands the need for reform and appreciates the effect of the reform. Institutions must be independent and free from political interference and the people must be part of a meaningful process of inclusion,” she said.
Writer and political commentator, Michael Harris, agreed that citizen involvement was key to constitutional reform. However, he added that change was not an “overnight task.” The approach to reform, he said, has been generally flawed. “I think the problem is that we have viewed constitutional reform as something which we can give to a group of wise men to decide upon and take their recommendations to parliament and that is constitutional reform, but unfortunately that cannot work.”
He added: “I do not know that any of our governments in the past have viewed it this way. And even if some of them have understood that it should be so, they may have been afraid to get into that process because that is a process which demands real politics and cannot be controlled from the centre.”
Harris said the T&T Constitution was a “replica of the colonial constitution” because it placed enormous power on a central executive. “To get away from that we need to do a number of things, but the chief most important of the things we need to do is devolve power from the centre and place real power in the hands of the people in their communities,” he said.
He added that there has always been difficulty in the relationship between T&T because Trinidad essentially hampers Tobago’s progress and development. This is why Harris said he fully supports public discourse on the proposed Green Paper.
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