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CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM IN WHOSE INTEREST? by Sylvestre McLaren

posted 12 Mar 2012, 20:36 by Gerry Kangalee
The issue of Constitution Reform keeps coming up all the time. A few years ago I can recall, there was a committee comprising of intellectuals such as Dennis Pantin and Dr. Selwyn Ryan who were charged with the task of coming up with a draft of a new Constitution. I am not sure what became of that document. Recently, I discovered that the Congress of the People, one of the partners in the Peoples Partnership government, has held meetings in some constituencies to discuss the question of constitution reform. 

In my humble view, constitution reform is necessary as long as it creates a level playing field at the economic base of the society. If that is not what is intended, then, it may not be a priority issue for the working people of this country. Constitution reform cannot and will not correct the ills of this capitalist economy if we are not prepared to correct the historical wrongs that we inherited in 1962. 

These are: the disinheritance of the First Peoples, the repeal of the laws which criminalize squatting and the broadening of the definition of the role of the state. The definition of squatting has its roots in the denial of the former slaves, the right to own property, after slavery was abolished. 

ARBITER AND REGULATOR
 
It is important to remind ourselves that the constitution which was handed to us- and which our leaders chose only to make minor changes to the capitalist definition of the role of the state- places the state in the position of arbiter and regulator in disputes between citizens be they corporate or private. The real reason behind the talk of constitution reform is to get the population to buy into the idea that there is a need to establish new political structures by which to govern the country. 

What they really want to do is to take away the right of the state to intervene in the economic activities of the country to protect the rights of those who are economically weak. Even in the capitalist definition of democracy can be found certain concepts which entered that domain, because of the struggles which working people the world over, fought for and won; to the extent that they can be found in the Constitution of the United Nations and International Labour Organisation. 

We must begin to understand that liberalism is the doctrine of the 10 million wealthy individuals out of a world population of over 7 billion people and, these 10 million people have the economic power to decide whose class interest the state must protect and preserve. They exercise that power through international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the World Bank and such other international financial and trade organisations. 

Through the use of these institutions they are able to intervene in the economic and political institutions of a country with the support of the government and the local capitalists in times of natural or man-made disasters - in our case it was the economic recession of the 1980s - to impose austerity measures with draconian conditionalities. Greece is currently facing these conditionalities. 

STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT
 
Remember the NAR government had set about the task of implementing structural adjustment as a result of the liberalized economic policies to which it had committed the country. 

Well, the main theme of liberalism is privatization. Liberalism preaches the virtue of a society without rules by which business must be governed. The doctrine of liberalism speaks of a society in which everything is owned and controlled by those who control the wealth of the society. 

They say that government must take a back seat and must be relegated to the position of a management team acting on the instructions of the wealthy. Therefore the reform of the constitution is of major importance to those who preach liberalism. We must begin to understand that changes in the economic structure influences change in the political structure. 

Remember the constitution governs the role and function of the government, the Public Service and many other branches of government. There are laws and regulations governing how public goods are delivered to the citizenry. A major function of the government is the delivery of public goods. 
 
The cost of the delivery of that public good runs into billions of dollars. In order for these large sums to be transferred to the Private Sector rules and regulations must be changed; even though clever ways have already been found through which public funds are reaching into the hands of private sector entities; e.g. through the special purposes companies. 

DISMANTLING STATE STRUCTURES
 
If we are observant and if we also listen carefully to the utterances of successive governments and the one currently in office, you will realise that the process of dismantling certain state structures has been in train for some time now. In addition to the establishment of the special purposes companies, various authorities are to be established. 

A Roads Authority already exists and a Drainage Authority is on the drawing board. We are hearing talk about the privatization of the First Citizens Bank which is owned by the people of this country. Already, the energy sector is largely in the hands of foreign private capital. Subsequent to the merging of Trinmar and Petrotrin what is now owned by the people of this country will fall into private hands. The fact that some local business men are benefiting through work over contracts is temporary. Foreign capital will once again completely control our energy resource if we are not careful. 

What the Congress of the People is doing, is continuing a process which was set in train by the NAR and kept alive by the PNM. Given the perception which now exists that the interest groups are now properly aligned; meaning that with the Movement for Social Justice which is wrongly perceived to bring with it the support of organised labour then with all the stake holders on board, there could be no difficulty moving ahead with its right wing policies. 

VISION 20 20
 
The PNM attempted a different approach at a time when the economy was growing and the country was awash with oil dollars as a result of the recent oil boom which was short lived. This new approach was attempted because of a vision which the former Prime Minister Patrick Manning claimed to have had. He called it “Vision 20-20.” Representatives of big business government and labour were invited to participate in the exercise of coming up with a master plan. 

In addition to this, Prime Minister Patrick Manning had appointed a committee of eminent persons who were charged with the task of coming up with a new constitution which should make provision for an Executive President. What we must begin to understand, is the fact that “Think Tanks” in Washington -or whatever part of the US from which they operate have fashioned a multiplicity of routes on which to guide a willing/unwilling government to the final goal which is placing the patrimony of the country in the hands of big local and foreign capital. 

The major obstacle in the path of the disciples of liberalism is the working people and their trade unions. Therefore, through divide and rule tactics or through the use of force by the police, such as, at the Trinidad Cement workers strike camp and the invasion of the offices of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union, they are clearly demonstrating that the PP government is prepared to use terror tactics as a tool with which to beat the trade unions and their members into submission to its will. 

One of the things that I have come to realize is that the advocates of liberalism do not believe that racism should be used at this time as a weapon, if it is to succeed in winning the support of the masses of Indians and Africans. That is why they speak out against any talk of racism. Their purpose is to appear intellectually astute and modern in their thinking. 

This is because the ideas they propagate sound attractive to the young middle class elements and petty capitalists among us. They also want to sound very democratic so they will talk about proportional representation. But we must be warned! There are many shades of fascism. What we now describe as liberalism is really fascism who sees the world as its domain and the citizens as its subjects whom it can exploit in any manner that it chooses. 

They will insult your intelligence by imposing Dr. Morgan Job on the unsuspecting individuals who are forced to listen to a man who despises ordinary people and preaches the virtues of capitalism. What is becoming clearer to me is the fact that the COP, who inherited the liberalism doctrine has started a campaign to win members of the public over to the ideas of liberalism but they have chosen to use the question of constitution reform as the starting point. 

But the question still remains; constitution reform in whose interest!? Certainly not in the interest of the working class if it is being used to create a society in which the wealthy becomes even more powerful. They will succeed only if we do not expose them for who they are; if we don’t mobilize our forces to ensure that collectively we remain in control of the resources of our country.
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