YESTERDAY, a member of the public sent us the following letter for publication. It was signed by a concerned Bahamian “with an independent mind”.
Said the letter writer:
“For the sake of the Bahamas and its reputation and to remind future Bahamian governments of their responsibilities we may need to consider this:
“A parliamentary ‘Vote of no confidence’ in the present prime minister and ministers.
“Definition: A motion of no confidence is primarily a statement or vote which states that a person in a superior position - be it government, managerial, etc. - is no longer deemed fit to hold that position. This may be based on said person falling short in some respect, failing to carry out obligations, or making choices that other members feel are detrimental.
“In law, a motion of no confidence (alternatively vote of no confidence, censure motion, no-confidence motion, or (unsuccessful confidence motion) is a parliamentary motion which when passed would demonstrate to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in (one or more members of) the appointed government.”
Our only comment to this “concerned Bahamian” with an “independent mind” is that his proposal is interesting, but its execution would be an exercise in futility. And this is thanks to Bahamian voters, who do not appreciate the importance of a strong opposition to maintain a balanced government.
How far does anyone think a vote of no confidence would go against this government of 29 members and an opposition of only nine members with the loyalty of one of them now in question, possibly reducing their number to eight? Even though some members of the government might not be too happy with the way the country is being governed, can our readers contemplate any one of them giving up a secure parliamentary salary to cross the floor to boost opposition numbers and give meaning to a no confidence motion? The answer is no. Therefore, such an exercise would result in a heated debate without the desired conclusion.
The recent report from the Constitutional Commission into a review of the Bahamas Constitution pointed out that the Bahamas’ Constitution is “among the most heavily entrenched in the entire Commonwealth Caribbean, and sometimes the rationale for this is difficult to discern.”
It certainly was not difficult to discern among Opposition members at the time of the Constitution’s drafting in London. The Commissioners themselves, in their report, ventured to give the answer to the vexed question by quoting Sir Kenneth Roberts-Wray in his work on constitutional law. Said Sir Kenneth: “If it is true doctrine that a political party, having control of the legislature and sufficient support among the population to secure a favourable result in a referendum of their own devising, can entirely replace an agreed constitution by one more suited to their own interests, thus negotiated safeguards for minorities, for individual freedom and for the rule of law, however deeply entrenched, may prove to have no more value than the proverbial scrap of paper.”
The UBP – and later the FNM – were terrified that life would never be the same under a PLP government that had unlimited power. They were particularly horrified at AD Hanna’s suggestion at the conference that for any infraction, a Bahamian should be banished to the island of his birth. In other words he would no longer be able to move freely throughout the Bahamas — his homeland. That idea was quickly defeated. But it was a proposal that the late Norman Solomon, one of the Opposition delegates to that conference, never forgot. Several times over the years he would phone to remind us of the Hanna proposal, especially when the question of entrenched provisions was raised.
In dealing with this matter the Constitutional Commissioners pointed out what they called a “rather striking irony.” In fact, they wrote, the “amending clause of the Constitution, Article 54, despite creating such onerous conditions for changing the Constitution, is not itself entrenched, and can therefore be changed by a simple majority, subject to complying with the other procedural requirements for constitutional amendments.”
Said the Commissioners: “Of the 137 articles of the Constitution, 104 of those can only be changed by an act of the Legislature with a 2/3 or 3/4 weighted majority followed by the approval of a majority of the Bahamian electorate voting in referendum, sometimes referred to as ‘entrenched’ and ‘specially entrenched’.”
Sir Lynden’s government was in power for 25 years and for each election in those 25 years all we heard from the Opposition side at election time was the determination to win sufficient Opposition MPs to protect the entrenched articles. They dreaded the day that the Bahamas should ever, by the vote of the people, be in the sad position that it now finds itself in.
We shall never forget the words of one gentleman who had made the Bahamas his home, but when he had the opportunity of becoming a citizen declined. He opted to remain a permanent resident with the right to work. He often remarked that if he had Bahamian citizenship and had to renounce the citizenship that he acquired at birth, a Pindling government might get back into power, and one day he might wake up and find he was living in a republic. He kept his own passport so should that day ever arrive he and his family could return to his native land. He was not the only person who felt that way.
Opposition members during the Pindling regime, did attempt a vote of no confidence in Sir Lynden. That was the day that Pindling was almost brought down. However, he won by a slim margin, which resulted in the dissident eight leaving to form the Free PLP, which eventually evolved into the present FNM.
Escalating violent crime
The escalating murders in the past few weeks is alarming.
A weary police officer commented yesterday that what the criminals are now doing is killing off the witnesses. “They don’t intend to have anyone testify in court against them,” he said. “I blame this on the bail system, and delaying lawyers — swift justice is urgently needed.”
He said when police now go into areas to gather information, suddenly no one knows anything, possibly not even the date of their birth. In other words: “Shut mout catch no flies!”
What a sorry state of affairs.