Monday, January 04, 2010

A Good Draft Constitution but Not Perfect! Part 1of 3

I would like to commend the Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review for proposing a good draft Constitution for discussion. The draft is a good starting point but not perfect as no constitution is perfect. A constitution is a living document which tries to rectify the past wrongs while solving present problems and proposing a road map for the future. In this sense, a good constitution is both backward looking and forward looking. But importantly, a good constitution attempts to solve present problems without being a captive of the past and without imposing solutions to future generations. While we can try to mend the past we cannot predict the future. Posterity will have to solve their problems. But if we construct a good foundation for governance today, the future generation will be inspired by our foresight. So in my view a good constitution is one that offers solutions to our present problems inspired by past experiences and future expectations. Such a constitution cannot be perfect for all times.

I think that the Harmonized Draft Constitution aptly endeavors to find solutions to most of the pressing problems of our nation today. That said, however, there are areas that may need more attention. The draft has positively dealt with matters concerning human rights by targeting political, civil and socio-economic as well as cultural rights, environmental rights and utilization and development of natural resources. In this sense, it has reinforced the fact that human rights are indivisible. It has also appropriately addressed gender balance and disadvantaged persons’ rights in most aspects of life. The rights of minority groups are also in focus. Provisions on citizenship and dual citizenship are also welcome. Land rights, which have been a major cause of conflict, are adequately spelt out and are reinforced in the recently adopted National Land Policy. The provisions on political parties are commendable. The separation of offices of Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions and the creation of a new office of Public Defender is innovative. Of course, I am aware that individuals and groups directly affected by some of the rights and provisions will make their views known and where necessary suggest improvements. As such, I will not dwell on such shortcomings here.

My main concern in this commentary is on matters which are still regarded contentious and require input; executive powers and representation in a devolved system.

Check Part 2 tomorrow.

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