Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | June 1, 2009
Home : Commentary
Change the Constitution - Part II
David Coore, Contributor


The first part of this article was published as Public Affairs in yesterday's Sunday Gleaner.

Both political parties have committed themselves to a vision of moving Jamaica to developed-country status within less than a quarter of a century. Political stability is an essential ingredient of such a status and this in turn must be based upon a constitutional framework that commands the loyalty of the people within a democratic system based on the rule of law and the protection of human rights.

Economic and social conditions that hold out the realistic prospect of steady improvement in the quality of life experienced by present and future generations constitute an equally important ingredient of the envisioned status.

Spirit of cooperation

Both of these areas therefore - the constitutional and the economic - demand the wholehearted attention of our political leaders. In addition, neither will be achieved nor even be approached unless this attention is given in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, accompanied by reasonable compromises by both political parties and their leaders.

In view of the work that has already been done in respect to constitutional reform, it would be easier to start there and begin the process of practising constructive debate and genuine consideration by our political leaders, our private sector and all our media outlets. The development of this spirit will assist in the more difficult task of fashioning agreed effective responses to our economic and social problems.

Plan with patience

This will not be easy and we delude ourselves if we believe that we can escape the economic dilemma in which we find ourselves, as long as the world economic scene remains as it is. It will not, however, last forever and while we await improvement in this regard, we need not only to exercise the patience that the situation requires, but to prepare ourselves to take advantage of those world economic improvements that occur, and as soon as they occur.

In this regard, we might well begin with the basic recognition that our destiny lies in becoming, along with our Caribbean Community partners, a more fully integrated member of the wider Caribbean region. It is time to revisit and make more effective the idea introduced by the People's National Party in the 1990s of an Association of Caribbean States stretching from Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela in the south to Cuba and Mexico in the north.

Basic consensus

This region possesses the natural resources and the intellectual capability to provide for all its membership, including ourselves, substantial support in our trade and other areas vis vis the developed countries of Europe, North America and the emerging countries of Asia and Africa, as well as a supporting voice in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international bodies. This will involve something of a paradigm shift in our approach to foreign policy. Any such shift in our traditional relationship with Europe and North America, to be credible and effective, will require a basic national consensus.

This consensus can be achieved, but it will require leadership and constructive debate in Parliament that creates the conviction in the minds and hearts of the Jamaican people that we now have a truly Jamaican Constitution and a programme of action that truly reflects their vision of our destiny as a nation.

David H. Coore, QC, is a former parliamentarian and one of the original framers of the Jamaican Constitution.

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