Constitutional reform has to transform into a front-burner, full-time effort

Dear Editor,

Constitutional reform takes centre stage again.  By now it is undeniable that constitutional reform is more than necessary; it is obligatory and of vital importance because of the sweep and potential to make a difference in the future of this place.  Now even as I laud those sturdy souls that made the most recent gathering on this subject happen, I venture that so much more than this is needed before some meaningful, satisfactory measure of constitutional reform can become a settled reality.

For constitutional reform to gain credible traction, it has to transform into a front-burner, full-time, and formidable effort. The government’s door has to be knocked upon more frequently, more insistently, and more urgently every time. While civility and a certain modicum of decorum must prevail at all times, there has to be the willingness on the part of those taking the lead to mix it up, to get down, and to get in the face of lethargic leaders, especially those in particular places and levels of government.  There must be the zeal and interest in maintaining relentless intensity on what could be among the most significant developments in this country for a long time, oil notwithstanding.

Instead, and with every respect where such is due, existing endeavours have an on-again, off again flavour and temperature; there is a distinct lack of torque and any semblance of momentum. This is satisfactory to government. What is required is that there must be fearless, dedicated people, who manifest umbilical attachment to constitutional reform as a personal priority, an unswerving cause, and a holy calling.  If not, then nothing is going anywhere.

Editor, everyone knows where the gaps are, where the egregious is enshrined, and what the remedies are. To some extent, there is also some sense of what reform recommendations might be found acceptable, and would pass muster. Yet, when there should be near continuous pressure to command interest and demand response, there is only occasional energy, and sometimes zeal.  To make things happen, somebody (some group) has to take this into territory that would make the brave flinch, and think twice; but still go forward.  Perhaps, part of the problem is that there is too much thinking on this already, so that it assumes some of the features of an abstraction.

Unless, there is the readiness to march into hell through making constitutional reform a personal and national (perhaps, even a heavenly) cause, then it is one step sideways, and a pivoting semicircle arc tracing a reverse direction.  In sum, nothing of substance is going to be realized.  Reform has to be more than a fleeting moment that attracts interest and then silence; it has to be more than a sporadic letter here and there; or a well-meaning column now and again; with again being some calendar distance down an already crowded road littered with competing priorities.

Constitutional reform has to metamorphose into an unremitting force field that makes the politicos stand to attention; currently it is far from a force; it is too benign.  Thus, as matters stand a universally deplored governing document continues to taunt and haunt a nation locked in a cycle of leadership fear, group calculations, political timidity, and largely insouciant citizens. Meanwhile an aging abomination continues to linger, and it is nowhere near any death throes. When it should be buried, it keeps getting resurrected.  At this rate, the constitutional context can remain mainly untouched, say, until 2050; other than for a few token crumbs in between to calm the restive.

On its own behalf, the controlling power (government) has been content to utter nice phrases; remain carefully bland and noncommittal; and disengage to the point of waiting for matters to develop and force its hand. Up to this time, and for the longest while, backing into a corner, cutting off egress, and forcing the hand of government have not occurred. The government is pleased.

Somewhere, somehow, someone has to make it uncomfortable; some band has to raise the decibel level to interfere with its placid disposition; and to wring something tangible out of it. Or else, constitutional reform remains the soup of the day. The soup is not only tasteless; it is also too viscous.


Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall