Monday, February 10, 2014

Envisioning outside-the-island-box - #TowardsConstitutionReform: #TheEmperor’sNewTools


The Constitution Reform Committee returns to the public with a package of reform measures it has amalgamated from discussions, recommendations and opinions as well as review of reports of previous Constitutional Reform Commissioners, and previous redesigns on the Constitution including the most recent Ellis Clarke redraft.
It cannot be an easy task for the two ladies and three gentlemen (gender imbalance noted and shelved for later discussions) who are proposing a governance system that is likely to drive the country’s development for perhaps the next half a century. It is in this basic fact that I find the proposed reforms most deficient – in visioning the future.
I could find no where in the document a scan of the environment – local or global - that suggests in this attempt to review, revise and devise the instrument of governance that will take us into our next 50 years, or so, that it is addressing fundamental deficiencies beyond the political system, those constitutional mechanisms that have been imposed on our society and that feed systemised inertia; nor does it adequately address potential challenges that are bound to arise in our continually and rapidly evolving socio-political environment, and build into it such mechanisms that can become absorbers for future-shock.
Indeed, much of the measures proposed are tunnelled into reflection on the flaws of the current and past system, which, though commendable in themselves, remain shortsighted if we are to consider the upheavals around us, globally and at home, that are challenging existing political and governance models to breaking point. This implies that the changes being proposed might perhaps already be obsolete, or are likely to be, by the time they are enacted and begin to seep into the social and political operational psyche – and I say this without attempting in any way to diminish what is clearly a herculean effort of the reform committee.
In this regard, I find the current proposals deficient in the following core areas:
It is inarguable that our current environment is demanding a significantly less top heavy approach, to one in which citizens sit at the centre of participatory governance with systems and structures so designed. To couch a new system somewhere between the cracks of two dominant models – the (UK) West Minster Parliamentary and US Presidential (which incidentally also evolved from the UK model) is really to: a: reinforce and further entrench them; b: deprive ourselves of options in examining engagement of other governance models; c: short sell ourselves and the multicultural nation we like to boast that we have become.
I continue to maintain that we have a unique opportunity in Trinidad and Tobago to propose a new model, a new system of governance, albeit drawn from a range of existing models but which is more relevant to social realities, that suit the range of new knowledge we have at our disposal of a wider range of social, political and economic systems than those from which the UK/US models emerged. It allows us the opportunity to restore respect and give value to the full gamut of our political heritage(s) that have pressured the kind of governance that has existed before our Independence from colonial rule, and which we have perpetuated and entrenched post-Independence.
As a place where - whatever the fates or forces of history - are gathered within this small island space, the main cultural streams of the world of ancient/traditional of Africa and Asia (India/China) and indigeneous America, along with those from Europe, surely we can make this experiences of value to the global village in which we function, and have it reflect within a system of governance we devise for ourselves. Surely we owe some respect to such an advantageous position afforded us, whether by accident or design, to take a step, or two, or three or more as may be required, back, from what is before our noses and cast our gazes more widely, to embrace and engage the bigger, panoramic picture of the globe of which we forma part, although we may be only island-like.
A simple direct example may be drawn from this. Though our systems speak of two, i.e. ‘twin-island state,’ Trinidad and Tobago in fact comprises some 21 or more islands. A geographic revisioning is only one dimension to reconsider. There is also, beyond the geo-physical, the metaphysical space we occupy – the expansive diaspora that includes the societies from which we were forged, along with the new ones which we are helping to create. In the evolution into a borderless world (is there any denying that?) engaging the diaspora in our governance system is an option small islands like ours cannot ignore. Claiming/reclaiming our diasporas and stemming the haemorrhage of talent, skills, visions and ambitions, while embracing our heritage systems that past and our current system have alienated, and facilitating participation and access of our citizens to global opportunities – even those beyond diaspora - are as much a challenge of any new governance system may to hope to devise.
That is the philosophic underpinnings that drive the concept of the global village of which we are a part; which, beyond the national boundaries envisioned by Constitutions as ours, remain the single most challenging element to existing governance structures and which will remain a looming challenge to any kind of governance system we devise.
This makes imperative a rethink and reenvisioning of our reform processes that are much more engaging and embracing than the proposals we have before us.
Next: Reassembling the Body Politic: Power. Politics. People.
Note: This is based on the Report of the Trinidad and Tobago Constititution Reform Commission, 2013. I thank the Honourable President of the Senate Mr Timothy Hamel-Smith for emailing me his proposed recommendations for constitutional reform in his paper entitled Re-Engineering Our Constitution for Participation and Performance and inviting debate so directly and openly (when conditioning of much of our system interprets critiques as criticism). I will attempt a review, next).  
  This Demokrissy series, The Emperor’s New Tools, continues and builds on the analysis of evolution in our governance, begun in the introduction to my book, Through the Political Glass Ceiling (2010): The Clash of Political Cultures – Cultural Diversity and Minority Politics in Trinidad and Tobago.

Others in this series:
Oct 20, 2013 Choosing the Emperor's New Troops. The dilemma of choice. Voting is supposed to be an exercise in thoughtful, studied choice. Local government is the foundation for good governance so even if one wants to reform the ... http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Apr 07, 2013 Old Casked Rum: The Emperor's New Tools#1 - Towards Constitutional Reform in T&T. So we've had the rounds of consultations on Constitutional Reform? Are we any wiser? Do we have a sense of direction that will drive ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Apr 30, 2013 Valuing Carnival The Emperor's New Tools#2....http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
See Also:
Jul 30, 2013 Wherever these breezes have passed, they have left in their wake wide ranging social and political changes: one the one hand toppling long time leaders with rising decibels from previously suppressed peoples demanding a ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 25, 2013 Some 50 percent did not vote. The local government elections results lends further proof of the discussion began in Clash of Political Cultures: Cultural Diversity and Minority Politics in Trinidad and Tobago in Through The ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 14, 2013 They are announcing some political meeting or the other; and begging for my vote, and meh road still aint fix though I hear all parts getting box drains and thing, so I vex. So peeps, you know I am a sceptic so help me decide. http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Jun 15, 2010 T&T Constitution the culprit | The Trinidad Guardian · T&T Constitution the culprit | The Trinidad Guardian. Posted by Kris Rampersad at 8:20 AM · Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Related:
Apr 30, 2010 'How we vote is not how we party.' At 'all inclusive' fetes and other forums, we nod in inebriated wisdom to calypsonian David Rudder's elucidation of the paradoxical political vs. social realities of Trinidad and Tobago. http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 29, 2013 An indication that unless we devise innovative ways to address representation of our diversity, we will find ourselves in various forms of deadlock at the polls that throw us into a spiral of political tug of war albeit with not just ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 16, 2013 Sheilah was clearly and sharply articulating the deficiencies in governmesaw her: a tinymite elderly woman, gracefully wrinkled, deeply over with concerns about political and institutional stagnation but brimming over with ... http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 21, 2013 Ain't Trini politics d BEST! Nobody fighting because they lose. All parties claiming victory, all voting citizens won! That's what make we Carnival d best street party in the world. Everyone are winners because we all like ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Jan 09, 2012 New Media, New Civil Society, and Politics in a New Age | The Communication Initiative Network. New Media, New Civil Society, and Politics in a New Age | The Communication Initiative Network. Posted by Kris Rampersad ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/