VOICE FOR AN INDEPENDENT MONTSERRAT
THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE CARIBBEAN PAN-AFRICAN MOVEMENT
Given the recent political turmoil it is now incumbent on all political leaders and those who aspire to leadership to make themselves be heard. They must let the people know what their vision for Montserrat is and not their vision for each other.
We have heard from the elected members of the legislative council who are not part of the governing group and we are being told of the eloquence with which they have been expressing themselves.
And we have certainly heard from time to time from those on the government side in their official capacity addressing particular issues or problems in their public appearances. However, to date, neither side have seen fit to address seriously the real future of this Island or as the British refer to it, "DT".
When I refer to the future I mean, to ask "Where do we go from here," in this era of the end of the cold war, global free trade and world-wide recession?
The British have spoken. Mr. Lennox Boyd has visited and spoken. The Governor, Mr. Taylor has said his piece on national radio and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued its policy statement.
Apart from the Chief Minister stating that he has invited the other CM's from the other DT's to Montserrat to discuss the Policy paper and to develop a common approach to the Paper and its implementation, there has been no discussion, no open discussion on the part of the leadership as to its implications for us or on any other discussions on the way forward economically or otherwise.
I raise this issue of our future because it would appear that the only things that demand the attention of those of our leadership that crave the headlines are the one-off, high profile issues, which though important enough to speak about, are certainly not more important to our future well-being than the developments to which the FCO policy paper addresses itself.
The high profile issues of which I speak are certainly examples of the type of problems which we will and must face as we travel this road to our future.
But, our leaders choose to discuss these issues with little reference to the overall context of our development and the type of country we expect to have in the near future.
Only the immediate political mileage that can be gained seem worth considering. Thus, we will hear of the sand issue but not against the back drop of our development goals and how they may be affected. We hear of the chicken issue, but how do the decisions made impact on our goals in any development process.
When are we going to put things in perspective and argue rationally against the background of a vision for the future? Is it just a matter that we see how things affect this individual or group and then react? Or do we set goals and orient all our movements, reactions and decisions towards those goals and make our plans within this framework? Plans in isolation stay that way and do not give the impression of progress.
We need to say what we are going to do in the face of the new administrative initiatives of the UK Government. We need to say what we are going to do in the face of the US thrust towards a more competitive American economy and the trend toward unencumbered world trade.
What is our situation with respect to the Mastricht Treaty? What position has Britain negotiated on our behalf? What benefits, if any, do we derive?
We need to see what type of economic base would best suit our resources and how we can shape them to meet the goals we set ourselves. We need to start looking with increasing concern at our established institutions to see if they are serving us properly and if they can meet the challenge of the future.
I have asked these questions of myself and have arrived at a few conclusions. The questions I have raised point in one general direction underlined by the most critical one of "Where do we go from here?". In other words "what are our goals?".
My assessment of our goals can be summed up as the creation of a nation of prosperity and freedom in a democratic framework.
In looking at this statement, we recognize that on the one hand we are talking to our economic situation when we speak of prosperity.
On the other extreme, we refer to our political direction when we speak of a democratic framework, and we are somewhere in the middle, that is, some of both, when we speak of freedom, and we embrace our social view when we combine the three.
Thus, in establishing our goals we can then view the plans we make and the institutions we have in the light of their effectiveness or suitability to the achievement of these goals.
It is clear that some of our institutions are inadequate at present and will certainly prove more so in the future. Unfortunately for us, I perceive that two of the most critical institutions necessary to chart the course and take the lead in implementing the decisions arrived at are two that require immediate overhaul.
They represent the heart of our decision-making process. They are the "constitution" and the civil service structure.
We cannot hope to pursue any economic direction which we see as fitting and proper unless we are in a position to make the right and timely decisions in our own interest.
This means that the political directorate must be prepared and have the authority required. Our civil service must have the capability and the orientation to implement those decisions.
Our present form of partial representative government leaves much to be desired. It is clearly far from being democratic on paper and despite all our good intentions, what is bad in the foundation will inevitably give rise to problems in the final structure.
We need a real Constitution; not a grab bag of articles tossed together for convenience. We need a workable document that reflects the people it is intended to serve and guide.
It must take into account all the unique attributes of this our Island and its people. It must encompass our view of the world in which we live and our vision for the future.
We need a government structure that is responsive to the will of the people who are subject to it. It must not be an imposed framework whose intent when designed was far different to what we expect it to accomplish today.
No matter how finely we may tune the latest version of an automobile, it was not designed to fly and it will certainly fail in any attempt to make it fly.
It is true it was designed as a means of moving from one point to the other, a mode of transport, but it was not intended to take its passengers through the air in so moving. The airplane was designed for that job.
We need to revamp our civil service structure to work with our new and progressive constitution.
Having taken this first step, we can address more forthrightly the matters of economic interest and social import to the achievement of our goals.
For too long we have been told that one must achieve economically before one can aspire politically.
I propose the opposite premise, "We need political authority to enable us to take the required steps to achieve our economic goals".
With this premise it is now our duty to firmly put in place the mechanisms to ensure that the necessary changes can and do occur.
The first step must be to construct a framework which will be the basis of a new constitution.
The new constitution must look at our common practices, the manner in which we work with each other and the most effective organizational approaches that we have developed in our social, cultural and economic groupings over our more recent history.
The short comings associated with our small population, our small physical size and our limited resource base.
There is a need to recognize that because our constitution has a tradition in english culture, history or law does not make it suitable in our situation.
Our mores have been influenced more by U.S. culture in practise in our recent history than the UK. No doubt that it will become more so in our future.
In so far as british principles and practise are the same or similar to the american our own stand in good stead. Where there is divergence we must seek to determine where we as a people have arrived at a consensus of our own and act on it.
There are many areas where the expressed values which some in the society feel we ought to uphold run contrary to common practise.
We must therefore determine whether the ideal as enunciated is what we should aspire to, for the better good of the nation, or we should recognize that what is commonly accepted is what we must work with in order to achieve our goals.
Having taken the above and others things into consideration, I would wish to propose the following as a place of departure or a focus for discussion and synthesis of a practical and working document for our future development.
The Government shall be made up of a Legislative Council of a single unit, an Executive body derived from the legislative unit and a Judiciary incorporating our present judicial system subject to some review which may be necessary as a result of changes in our fundamental governmental structure.
The membership Legislature shall consist of nineteen (19) elected representatives and three (3) appointed members. Ten (10) of the elected members shall be elected from specific geographical constituencies and the remaining nine will be elected at large island- wide. The nominated members would be selected by the elected members.
The Legislature shall be responsible for the passing of all laws and the appropriation of all funds for expenditure by government.
The Executive shall be chosen from the entire membership of the legislature, whether elected or nominated and should be in sufficient numbers to effectively carry out the responsibilities of governing.
The specific numbers of the Executive will be determined from time to time by a two thirds majority vote of the legislative council.
The elected members of the legislative body, shall elect from among themselves the person who shall take the leading role as the head of government or Chief Minister, who will then appoint the various other representatives to be Ministers who will take up the responsibilities required for effective and responsive government.
The Executive shall be directly responsible for the management ofthe departments of government variously grouped for best management under the leadership of a minister.
The minister is directly responsible for the good and effective management of all the areas of government placed in the minister's portfolio
A minister may appoint an administrative head and staff to assist in the day to day implementation of policy through the various departments in the minister's portfolio.
A new Legislature shall be elected every five (5) years.
Any member of the legislature may be recalled before the usual term expires, by a two thirds majority vote of that member's electorate in a special election called for that purpose.
A special election can be called:-
(1) to solicit the electorates views on issues of concern
(2) to make a decision on any proposition put before the electorate by the government
(3) to elect a new member of the legislature in case a place becomes vacant before the normal period of service
(4) to force a recall of an elected member of the Legislature.
A simple majority vote of the legislature can call for a special election in case of item 1 or 2 above. In case of item 3, an election must be called within six months of a place being made vacant.
In all cases a petition signed by twenty-five (25%) percent of the appropriate electorate can require a special election for the purposes outlined in the said petition.
The framework outlined above is just that: a framework. The intent is to stimulate discussion to arrive at a consensus, a workable consensus, after which we can then design a civil service structure to compliment and implement the policies arrived at by our political directorate. We must build a firm foundation on which our nation can grow.
Survival is the name of the game. Without survival skills we are all doomed: our children will be destined to failure and our society will self-destruct.
While most animals get survival skills as part of their birthright, called instinct, we humans must learn these skills.
Our ancestors taught their offspring how to live and survive. It was a learn-as-we-go-along process. Today we are formally educated for 15-20 years and more in some cases. The anguishing question is, "Are we teaching survival skills?"
It is explicitly and not so explicitly taught that education is the way to success. We have over and over again heard this statement, "Boy go to school and learn so that you could come out something." But are our children truly coming out something?
A casual survey at the youthful generation gives no evidence of this. An analysis of truly successful people will also show that many were not as formally educated as we are told that is necessary.
Slavery has effectively obliterated the Black man's ability to interact with his women and children effectively. Evidence suggests that he still does not know how to treat the opposite sex with taste and honour. Nor do the women have the knowledge of how to respond appropriately.
If education is all about making us good citizens then it is duty bound to pass on the skills that are necessary for us to behave like respectful men to our women. Women also need to understand how to manage themselves as decent wives.
Parental skills should be taught to students. As important as it is, the education system today teaches nothing of proper family planning. Some theoretical knowledge of the anatomy of the genitals and how to use condoms, yes! But never the psychology of raising children.
Our educators probably take it for granted that we all know how to do this instinctively. But we should be taught how to be good fathers and proper mothers.
We should be made to understand the psychology of children at different age levels and how to treat them in a way that will positively influence them.
We are, instead, given sex-education classes and left to experiment on our own. Whatever will be, will be!
"The disposition and the native capacity of pupils should be considered in the work of education. Children are not to be regarded as insensible objects, to be dealt with in a blind, mechanical way, but as living creatures to be carefully nurtured and developed." (Painter)
Children are not taught independence. They are not shown how to develop their creativity. Analytical abilities are left dormant. They are educated to be mere reflectors of other men's thoughts.
Hours every day, for weeks and months, are spent in an endless round of hearing teachers pontificate on issues that they themselves have unquestioningly imbibed. Textbooks are used as bibles.
The principle of authority, suppressing all freedom and independence of thought, prevails from beginning to end. This is a direct reflection of the hellish principle of education that the Jesuits used in the 17th century.
In his book, The History of Education, Professor Painter says, "The Jesuits did not aim at developing all the faculties of their pupils, but merely the receptive and reproductive faculties. ....
Originality and independence of mind, love for truth for its own sake, the power of reflecting and forming correct judgements, were not merely neglected, they were suppressed in the Jesuit system."
"Teach everything by experiment and analysis. Nothing should be received on mere authority: the reason and evidence should be examined and apprehended." Ratich
Students should not simply be mere reflectors of other men's thoughts. Montaigue, a wise man of the 16th century says, "too much learning stifles the soul just as plants are stifled by too much water or lamps by too much oil. Our pendants plunder knowledge from books and carry it on the tip of their lips just as birds carry seeds to feed their young. .... We toil and labour to stuff our memory, but leave the conscience and understanding unfurnished and void."
Bloom, in his book, The Closing of the American Mind, shows how detrimental this type of education is.
Our system also does not help our children to develop their latent potential and abilities. Independence and creativity are not taught in the curriculum. Instead they are all massed trained to meet some external standard that bears no relationship to real life.
Students are never taught how to put their skills to work and create opportunities where there are none. Instead they are educated to think that O and A levels and the college degrees are passports to secured jobs, where they never get an opportunity to develop their talents and potentials.
They do servile paper work in a fashion that any numbskull can be trained to do. Even large quantities of letters behind their name, if they are not hired by some firm, they never launch out on any program of their own.
They sit and stagnate, hoping that one of the many companies that have received their applications will one day call them. Total dependence mentality: no independence.
Our schools ensure this by largely omitting vocational skills. A feeble effort is made to give skills to the "not-so-academic" pupils who end up taking these courses because they have not other choice.
It is high time that our education curriculum be revamped. It must reflect real life situations. Training should be made to develop not only the students' memories but their analytical, reflective capabilities. Booker T. Washington's book, Up From Slavery, where he documents his marvelous program at Tuskegee Institute, would be a great asset to our educators.
The year 1993 marks a new beginning for many people. For The Pan-Afrikan Liberator, 1993 is the continuation of an on-going process of mental liberation. We begin the year with two contributions. The first one provides a broad framework for our political future. The second discusses how we are educated with suggestions for improvement.
The thoughts and ideas appearing in these pages are here for your reflection and modification, and to generate discussion leading to constructive plans for our development. In the months to come, we hope to receive positive contributions from all sectors of OUR society.
As we continue to agitate for independence, we realize that with it comes the necessity and inevitability of change and the need to accept responsibility for our own destiny.
A 1978 editorial in The Montserrat Mirror spoke of the need to start preparing for independence.
In 1984, the PLM party leader spoke of the need for Montserrat to become independent. In 1993, the current leader of the country has given his version of what is now a very old tune on the need to look at independence.
The Pan-Afrikan Liberator is going beyond thinking about or looking at independence.
The Pan-Afrikan Liberator intends to agitate, instigate, motivate and educate our people to apply our own thought processes to solve our own problems and lead us into a tomorrow that puts us first as an independent nation.
PAL Header Image created by Chad Cumberbatch
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