BY Rev. Canon S. Sebastian Campbell
Disappointed in most of the recommendations tendered by the constitutional commission?
I certainly am.
The English language is inadequate in finding an adequate expression. The leaders of the Commission were known in their youthful prime, for being radical in outlook and ready, if given an opportunity, to lead us to that proverbial New Frontier.
What is it that has brought them to give recommendations that will keep things the same? The very idea of constitutional reform implies a radical outlook to steer courageously into the winds of change.
The example of St Vincent’s defeat of the reform measure pertaining to the monarchy is not a good example. It should not be used as a guide for us being timid to touch a similar proposal. The constitutional reform in St Vincent was advanced by Dr Ralph Gonzales at the height of his unpopularity. In fact Gonzales won the following general election with majority seats and minority votes. The vote was a personal attack on the Prime Minister. A referendum is determined by total votes cast, unlike a general election that is won by majority seats.
I find very little comfort in what is being advanced to the Prime Minister.
It would be interesting to know the age composition of the commission and the age range of persons with whom there was consultation outside of the town hall meetings. These recommendations appear to reflect a “settled” age grouping of persons who are entrenched in the colonial mire. It is common knowledge that the majority of Bahamians over forty years of age will not accept any radical change that takes them beyond sight of colonial horizons.
The bridge to the future lies in an educated and daring constituency of Bahamians, the youth. They must be exposed beyond our horizons, for there are many examples of progressive countries who live out progressive reformation who were once colonies of Great Britain. I have heard none of these countries used as examples within the report. Near to home Trinidad and Tobago is a republic. Jamaica has done well to swear allegiance to no foreign power. They have gone miles ahead in political reformation. Barbados, little England, has advanced beyond us. They have their own honours system and use now the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their court of appeal. We can go further to the far East and look at former British colonies like Malaysia and Singapore and see the mental liberation of a people so evident in the evolution of the judiciary and form of government and indeed in their economic system. Yes, we have much to learn from them in social reform. It will do well for us to expose Bahamians when leading so well a charge for change in the development of a country. I can only conclude that more exposure of commission members would have been ideal as they embarked on this journey of constitutional reform.
Bahamians must wake up to what it means to “March on to glory” we live in a highly conservative society. Our people are afraid of risks, change is feared, the average Bahamian wants cautious, very cautious change. Indeed many want to be colonial and Independent one and the same time. Many of our Bahamians in leadership roles are trying hard to look, dress and act just like the colonial masters. Where are we failing? It’s all in our lack of an intentional educational approach to enlighten a new generation of people with the advent of Independence. We cannot embrace and expand a new order without intentional forms of education.
Our school system is stifled in its approach to the delivery of progressive education. What has been mandated in our curriculum that would define us as Bahamians and further our mental horizon? The system is most enslaving. What does the Social Studies programme look like, where is it mandatory to teach Afro Bahamian history. In our Home Economic classes where does crab fat and dough and flour cake come in? In this archipelago where is it being provided to expose our children to Long Cay, Grand Cay, Cat Island and Lovely Bay. Where are we making provision for our national dress? Where do we set monuments for public lessons to teach about our nation builders so as to advance their contributions.
Yes we have far to go; we are too comfortable keeping things the way they are. It is most damning when anyone says, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. A new horizon beckons; I pray we do not wait another forty years for another go at constitutional reform. Now is the time to challenge the old order so that it might give way to a more appropriate, and effective, new order to usher in necessary changes to bring us up to standard and even surpass countries in our region. I pray the government treads cautiously amidst these recommendations. The Bahamian public must be told that the report of the commission is only recommendations. The government has the right to accept or reject all that was presented in part or in whole.
A new Bahamas beckons, the new generation of those under forty is that bridge that must take us there. We must therefore be daring to steer courageously into the chilly teeth of the provision winds of change. (These words, paraphrase, spoken by the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling challenging his party to go to the new frontier)