Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. *Photo credit: www.primeministersprayerteam.org
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines will observe 30 years of political independence from Britain on Tuesday with the island’s two main politicians giving contrasting messages to citizens.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, whose government is campaigning for a “Yes” vote in a November 25 national referendum to change the 1979 Constitution, said it was important for nationals to remove the “three irksome colonial impositions” contained in the existing constitution.
He listed these impositions as the retention of Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State, retaining the London-based Privy Council as the final appellate court in both civil and criminal matters and the stringent measures to be adopted in altering the constitution.
“In short, the ‘take-it or leave-it’ imposition by the departing colonialism was a shackle designed to prevent the alteration of a constitution stuffed with weaknesses, to which the people had not consented at all,” Gonsalves said.
He said the referendum would provide citizens with an opportunity of adopting a constitution “shaped by their own hands over a seven-year period in a thoroughly extensive and intensive way, never witnessed hitherto, anywhere, in the process of constitution- making.
“This is truly a home-grown effort in the year marked for our nation’s Homecoming. In our lifetime, no other public policy decision is of such importance as this one. For the love of country, Vote ‘Yes’,” Gonsalves added.
But in his message, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said that the 30th anniversary celebrations will take place at a time “when we are in the throes of a recession in our economy, at a time when many persons have lost and continue to lose jobs, at a time when heinous crimes continue, at a time when our major financial institution is in trouble, at a time when many of our people are losing hope and struggling to survive.
“It is surely not a pretty picture on this 30th anniversary,” he said, noting that he expects many people to become more passionate about the new constitution as the date for the referendum gets closer.
“However, whatever the outcome, the Constitution will have no significant effect on the state of our economy and our standard of living in the near future,” said Eustace, whose New Democratic Party is canvassing for a “No” vote in the referendum.
Eustace said that he foresees in the medium to long-term future “a St. Vincent and the Grenadines managed by an administration which pays more than lip service to the preamble of the Constitution which recognises the supremacy of God in all we do and say.
“…are we really serious about the role of God in directing our country and our lives? That question requires an individual answer from each and every one of us here in St .Vincent and the Grenadines – are we prepared to do this and change St. Vincent and the Grenadines for all time?” Eustace asked.