A NEW CONSTITUTION
THIS Booklet contains the Tapia proposals for Constitutional and Electoral
Reform as presented to the Fifth Anniversary Special Assembly held at the
Tapia House on November 18, 1973.
On that occasion, the presentation was made by Allan Harris, Adminis-
trative Secretary of our Movement but the statement is remarkable for being
a mere pulling together of pieces delivered by different Tapia speakers and
writers over the five years of the February Revolution.
It is a testimony to our philosophical and political coherence that,
although these pieces were invariably prepared on an individual basis and
presented without any collective vetting, they make up an internally con-
These Tapia proposals for Constitution Reform are meant to achieve a
total reorganisation of the system of government and politics in Trinidad &
Tobago by the creation of a participatory democratic Republic which will be
a living embodiment of our yearning for POWER TO THE PEOPLE.
At the end of 1969, The Black Power Movement began to demand
sovereign power for the people. By March 19, 1970 that demand had so
transformed our political perceptions that, at our first ever public meeting,
Tapia felt able to christen the happenings of those troubled times as The
February Revolution of Trinidad and Tobago. Our proposals have been
designed to concretise power to the people.
The statement here therefore focuses on fundamentals though we leave
for special treatment in companion documents, our full proposals for Local
Government, for The Public Service and for Tobago.
We urge now, as we have urged all along, that the full intent and mean-
ing of our proposals for Constitutional Reform can be grasped only in the
context of our plans for Social and Economic Reorganisation and for new
relations with the Caribbean and the outside world.
Second in a series which began last September with the publication of
Dr. C.V. Gocking's Democracy or Oligarchy?, this booklet is to be followed
early in the new year by others which would give a more complete view of
the Tapia Manifesto for Trinidad and for Tobago at the beginning of the last
Quarter of the 20th century.
Taken as a whole, this Manifesto constitutes a revolutionary document,
because, as never before in the history of this country, it repudiates petty
parish-pump pre-occupations and visualizes a civilization that takes for
granted the capacity of our people to manage their own affairs and to save
our nation by nothing but our own exertions.
Tapia publications also include a pamphlet series which began with
"Black Power and National Reconstruction" for Easter of 1970, at a high
point of the RevoluTionary crisis. While the Press has largely ignored these
publications, the Government and the Opposition Groups have noticeably
been influenced by them and Tapia has been denounced for foolishly giving
ideas, to others.
Tapia was born out of a dispute over the importance of discussing the
programme for national reconstruction. We could not conceive of anything
more arrogant than asking our people to buy a cat in bag; they must be clear
beforehand as to exactly what they are lending their support.
Any party that succeeds in getting office without the fullest public
scrutiny of its programmes and without persuading a significant number of
people to its particular way of thinking will be powerless to effect real change
and will have no choice but to use the Treasury, and the forces of law and
order to bribe or coerce the country into submission.
For our people to enjoy real power, there must be free and unfettered
discussion of all aspects of the national life. Conventional politics therefore
insists on keeping the newspapers, the television and the radio stations open
only to a privileged few. The result is to deprive the citizens of the only
effective means of identifying and selecting a superior alternative to the
As the inventor of unconventional politics, Tapia must insist on the
widest political education.
* SELL OUR PAPER EVERY WEEK-END
* ARRANGE HOUSE MEETINGS
* START TAPIA GROUPS IN YOUR AREA
* ORGANISE COMMUNITY WORK
*COME TO THURSDAY WORK-SESSIONS
AT TAPIA HOUSE
82-84 ST VINCENT STREET
17, ROYAL ROAD
1 THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND...
3 PRINCIPLES BEHIND THE TAPIA PROPOSALS...
7 THE SENATE
9 THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ...
10 THE NATIONAL PANCHAYAT
11 LOCAL GOVERNMENT
14 ELECTORAL REFORM
15 PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
16 THE OMBUDSMAN
23 HUMAN RIGHTS
26 OTHER PROBLEMS
IN THE West Indies, government and politics are upside down. That is the
way they were born. When the Carib Isles became the home of our fore-
fathers planters, merchants, slaves and maroons, attorneys, indentured
servants the sovereignty was anchored not in the little people but in the
King, proprietor and Governor. Power invariably descended from on high.
Since then, constitution change has consistently been imposed from
above. Trinidad, as distinct from Tobago, is very much the classic case. After
a brief spell of military government at the turn of the 19th Century, Trinidad
was established as the purest example of Crown Colony Government.The
power enjoyed by the Governor and his entourage of imperial bureaucrats,
though in practice subject to the influence of the oligarchy of white and
creole planters, was virtually absolute power.
In 1919, Cipriani and the Trinidad Working Men's Association burst
onto the stage of history and forced our first general elections to be held in
1925. But the limited franchise which they won did not give the vote to the
barefoot man. Inside the pale were only 6% of the population the group
with property and influence who went on to elect 7 representatives in a
Legislature of 26.
It took Butler and the movement for organized labour to advance our
cause again. At the end of the 1930's an explosion of popular indignation
rocked the entire region and secured Universal Adult Suffrage by the middle
of the 1940's. Politically, the national movement was on its way but in terms
of the working of government, the concentration of power survived.
It survived even up to the time when we in Trinidad and Tobago won a
ministerial system at the start of the 1950's. It took Williams and the People's
National Movement to achieve Cabinet Government in 1956, followed by
internal self-government in 1961 and Independence in 1962. But again the
virtual monopoly of power enjoyed by the Chief Executive remained essen-
tially intact. Under the Independence Constitution, it simply passed from a
white Imperial Governor to the Black Political Leader.
The first Queen's Hall Assembly failed to open up the gates of history
to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the Agreement finally reached by
PNM and DLP, under the tutelage of the Secretary of State for the Colonies
at Marlborough House, succeeded only in entrenching colonial authoritarian-
ism disguised as Westminster parliamentary democracy.
Independence has failed entirely to curtail the excessive power which
the Chief Executive has always had. In the context where the new and inspir-
ing idea of Party Politics was a creature of Doctor Politics, the Political
Leader of the majority party can in no serious way be restrained inside the
Government by colleagues who have no independent base either in the local
areas or in the world of private business.
Nor can the Head of Government be limited by dissenting opinion out-
side the Houses of Parliament when free opinion scarcely exists. With a busi-
ness class that is small, insensitive to the dangers of repression or happy with
it, and slow in filling the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the imperial
power, there has been little organised and responsible opposition from the
conservative quarter on the right. We have had only the traditional lobbying
for advantage by the oldest of pressure-groups. The good-neighbour policy of
the multinational giants in oil, sugar and pioneer, tax-holiday manufacturing
has served only to consolidate the weakness of business opposition.
The dramatic increase in the participation by the State in the economic
life of the country has given the Government a wide control of the jobs and
muzzled would-be opinion-makers especially amongst the professional,
executive and technical grades. It was not until the comparative freedom of
the University of the West Indies produced the New. World Group and
brought into being "the little papers" MOKO, TAPIA etc., that critical
opinion has begun to emerge as a political force.
The Constitution is positively hostile to any such development because
of the extraordinary amount of direct control over public appointments
which it gives to the Prime Minister alone. As her Majesty the Prime Minister
appoints the Governor-General and as the Governor he appoints the Chief
Justice and the Auditor General. The Public Service Commission, the Police
Service Commission, the Elections Commission and the Boundaries Commis-
sion; three out of five members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission;
all of these are dangerously within the scope of Executive patronage.
On top of all this the Prime Minister's consent is required when the
Electoral and Boundaries Commissions confer powers on public officers for
the purpose of discharging their function. He also has the power of consent
over appointment, acting or permanent, to the posts of Permanent Secretary,
Head of Department, Director of Personnel Administration, Chief Professional
Adviser and all respective deputies. His agreement is required for transfers
and promotions as well.
If these arrangements are not enough to guarantee a totalitarian State,
they are supplemented by the procedure for appointing the representatives
of the Second House. The Prime Minister appoints 13 of the 24 members
directly and after consultation a further 7 through the Governor General
It is this totalitarian juggernaut which our rising new national move-
ment must intervene now to destroy. The task of constitutional reconstruc-
tion means turning our constitutional history on its head and entrenching
the sovereignty of the citizens over the State especially in regard- to the
Behind The Tapia
THE Tapia Proposals for Constitution Reform are based on three concepts:-
REPRESENTATION means that all individuals, groups and interests
must be represented at the appropriate levels directly and from day to day,
not exclusively through the medium of a national political party and not only
at election time. This will require decentralisation of power to reduce the
present excessive influence of the Chief Executive and give elected legislators
a real accountability. It will require interest groups to have at the national
level representatives constantly answerable to the groups in respect of every
legislative issue, and subject to removal at any time by the groups they
PARTICIPATION means the constant involvement of all in the work of
government. This implies a constitutional framework within which everyone
can see an opportunity for fruitful occupation, and the evident possibility of
influencing the processes of government as they impinge on his or her life.
This in turn implies rationally-established organs of local government with
expanded power and the resources to make that power a reality.
LOCALISATION is the name we give to the process whereby the
citizens of this country take and exercise control of the economic resources
of the country. Localisation does not mean the acquisition by Government of
co trolling shares in private industry. It means:
Control of industry and agriculture through ownership of them by
th people most directly affected by them, that is to say, workers and trade
unions, residents of the area where the industries are sited, local government
organs, in a flexible pattern of ownership including where appropriate the
central government and private enterprise.
S* Incorporation in Trinidad and Tobago of all foreign-owned companies
wih management centred in this country and shares traded on the national
market, so that the effective direction of the companies will be localised
whatever the ownership arrangements.
A banking and financial system that is fully national, based on the
m bilisation of local savings and designed to afford credit for the develop-
me t of small enterprise.
Development oC national technocracy to enable the Government to
de l from a position of greater strength with metropolitan and international
in trial interests.
National creation of all advertising material.
The evils of centralisation of power have been much discussed in recent
times. Tapia's proposals for the organisation of government are designed to
overcome these. The inefficiencies arising out of constitutionally sanctioned
domination by the executive and especially by the Prime Minister are well
known. But there is one overwhelming disadvantage of centralisation that is
perhaps peculiar to the West Indian system of government, and especially to
'Trinidad and Tobago.
The populations of the West Indian colonies, unlike those of other
colonies, were composed entirely of immigrant groups African, Asian and
European. As a result there was no set of rules of political conduct native to
these islands and springing from below. An autocratic system, imposed from
above, was accepted as natural.
In this context, the individual could never escape the all pervasive
central authority which became entrenched in these tiny islands.
As the most volatile, ;urbanised society of all, made up of many frag-
ments of only very recently arrived peoples, Trinidad has been the extreme
example of the operation of these factors.
In such a situation, where it is already exceedingly difficult for the
citizen to gain a toehold in the control of affairs, the comprehensive patron-
age available to the governor or prime minister reduces the citizen to total
In a situation where open unemployment amounts to 14%, and where
the public sector employs 25% of the labour force, the cost of opposition be-
comes prohibitive. While citizens are prevented from organising, the party in
power finds a ready-made mercenary organisation among those who must beg
After 11 years of labouring under these political disadvantages, we have
reached a juncture where all the institutions on which the welfare of the
citizens depend are in a state of disrepair, unable to gain our trust. It is true
of the Army, the Police and the Courts; of the University, the Press and the
Church; of the Public Service, the Cabinet and the Parliament.
Over the last five years, the nation has been plunged into the depths of a
crisis which will now be resolved either in peace by politics or by violence in
war. The principles enunciated by Tapia dictate the following solutions.
A full-scale Constituent Assembly, a Temporary Conference of the
People. Thereafter we propose elections. The Conference will identify out-
standing constitutional problems, align political forces and prepare meaningful
choices for the country in the ensuing election.
Tapia will not accept a Conference of Citizens run along 1962 Queen's
Hall lines. We propose that Sir Hugh Wooding chair the Conference, that the
Constitution Commission be the Secretariat and that the Majority and
Minority Reports of the Commission be accepted as the working papers of the
In its discussion of the proposals for constitutional change the Confer-
ence should not only consider the fundamental social and economic issues
facing the country but also should itself provide a basis for reconstruction of
the system of government and politics. The Conference of Citizens must be
permanent so that the sovereignty of the people over the State is enshrined in
the new arrangements.
The nation must become a Republic with the Monarch replaced by a
ceremonial Head of State.
The case for the Monarchy is that many European-Trinidadians, conser-
vatives, and older people are afraid to change the symbols of the old order. It
is not that the Monarchy helps them in any concrete way. It does not. The
Prime Minister is the real King; the burden of the case against the Monarchy
is that we must unmask him. The proposals made here will limit him but it
will still leave him strong which he needs to be to permit strong and radical
The rest of the case against the Monarchy, is that its supporters are in
the minority. Sixty-two percent of the population is under twenty-seven
years of age and seventy-four percent under thirty-five.
If the European-Trinidadians wish to have re-assurances and every
citizen is entitled to seek them they must search not in an outmoded
symbolism but in the ways and means of the new political and constitutional
system. The diffident must be persuaded to join the movement for change so
as to ensure that the Constitution and the Government are organised in the
interest of all the people. All the citizens must contribute to the building of a
The power of the professional politicians in the Lower House must be
limited through the creation of a new type of Senate (a Permanent Conference
.of Citizens) and a Panchayat (a Congress of the Citizens and the Government).
The whole concept of the Senate must be transformed to create an
'Instrument of people's control'. The new Senate must be increased in size
and widened to be fully representative of national opinion.
The effectiveness of the Central Government must be improved by the
establishment of a framework of Regions and Municipal Councils.
The issue of machines versus ballot boxes has always in fact been a
non-issue. The real issue in electoral reform is one of trust.
The election machinery must be in the hands of an Agency which can be
trusted to be impartial as between the parties and interests contending for
office. This is why the Elections and Boundaries Commission must be con-
trolled by an independent Senate representing a wide and diverse range of
community interests and opinions.
The second electoral issue is one of participation. The electoral system
must always embrace all those people who are conceivably fit to exercise the
highest national responsibility.
This must mean that at least all working people and all people who have
families must be included on the,electoral register and must be automatically
registered by the Election Commission.
In practical terms this means that the voting age must b reduced to 18
and that even people under 18 who are married must be allowed to vote.
Full participation also means that all political groups should be given
equal exposure in the media. This will be secured if the Senate is given power
to supervise the State's interest in the media.
IN the present over-centralised system, the Second House is a mere
rubber stamp, since almost all its members are appointed directly or in-
directly by the Prime Minister, who nominates thirteen members directly and
Tapia proposes a Senate of anything between 250 and 500 members,
chosen from all conceivable interests in the country including:-
Trades Unions, Staff Associations
Municipal and Village Councils
Youth and Student Organisations
Housewives, Women's Groups
Teachers (Primary to University) Guilds of Graduates, Old Boys/
Artisans, Craftsmen and Independent Tradesmen
Farmers, Fishermen, Woodcutters
Wholesalers and Retailers
Engineers, Surveyors, Builders and Architects and Real Estate Men
Lawyers, Doctors, Dentists, etc.
Bankers, Financiers,Insurance Agents
Accountants, Economists, Statisticians
Giant Corporate Industry
Calypsonians, Steelbandsmen, Musicians
Artists and Writers
Environmentalists and Nature Lovers
West Indian Diplomatic Corps
The community groups represented in the Senate will have the power to
change their representatives at will. Their most important task would be to
vote on the first reading of all bills so that public opinion would be brought
forcibly and continuously to bear on legislation by keeping the Government
informed at close quarters and under Parliamentary cover.
Trinidad and Tobago is a progressive, informed and articulate society,
fully aware of the value of free and unfettered expression. But because so
many of our most knowledgeable citizens are employed by the State or by
other organizations which have no tradition of open participation in con-
troversial political debate and commentary, the Government and the citizenry
are forced to form judgments and make decisions largely on the basis of
private lobbying and surreptitious gossip.
The Senate proposed by Tapia will establish fearless and factual debate
in a public forum, debate that will ultimately create such a tradition in the
society that it would not matter if the Second House itselfbecameinvolved
in party political alignments. Nothing would be better than if political parties
attempted to mobilise support within the Senate. That would only give the
debate more incentive to expose the f pcts of life and encourage the parties to
discard racial patterns of organisation and embrace ideology, programme and
In any event, the Tapia Senate v'ould institutionalise dissenting opinion.
The Public Order Bill was defeated in 1970 by the voices of dozens of
citizens' groups; if such groups had been institutionalized in a permanent body
on a national scale, the provisions of tie Public Order Bill would not have been
passed later in a different guise.
The Senate will have increased powers, especially in the control of the
instruments of State. Some of the Seviate's new powers will serve to lessen the
concentration of power in the hands &of the Prime Minister. The Senate will be
to appoint the President of the Republic and Auditor General;
to appoint and administer the Elections and Boundaries Commission;
to conduct Commissions of Enquiry into Public Affairs;
to conduct national wage bargaining on a national scale;
to supervise the State interest in the mass media; and
to initiate all kinds of legislation, excluding money bills.
LEGISLATIVE power will remain with the Lower House. The Senate's
right to debate, and to vote on the first reading of bills, has the effect of feed-
ing information in to the legislative process and of making the government
continually aware of public opinion. The elected representatives must have the
final say in legislation, although, if theyprasson with legislation revealed by
the Senate to be unpopular, they will do so at their peril.
The centre of power in the system must remain the majority party in
this House, led by its Executive, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
The growth of real party politics, as reflected in the House of Repre-
sentatives, will mean that members will derive their status partly from their
own political base in their constituencies, and not, as now, merely from the
reflected glory of a Leader. Backbenchers will therefore be freer (and more
competent) to contribute to legislative work, particularly in Committees of
the House. There should therefore be an increase in the size of the First House
from 36 to perhaps 100, one representative for 10,000 people.
If a form of Proportional Representation is accepted (though Tapia does
not consider this necessary)an increase will be essential.
THIS is a joint meeting of both Houses for the first reading of all bills
except money bills. It would also be summoned at the request of either House.
It would serve to inform the legislative programme of the government, keep-
ing it in line with community opinion. Except when a State of Emergency is
being debated, the vote in the Panchayat may only be morally binding, but a
government would be foolish to ignore the opinions expressed in the debate.
The National Panchayat would have the power of veto over the Prime
Minister's appointments to the following posts:
Members of the Public Service Commission
Members of the Teaching Service Commission
Members of the Police Service Commission
Members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission
LOCAL Government is at the base of Tapia's proposals for participation,
representation and localisation.
The local community will become the basic unit of government and of
A system of genuine local government bodies will be established as a
decentralising governmental authority
integrating: the local communities into the system of national
planning and administration
creating an essential part of the institutional framework for bringing
the economy under the control of the people.
We propose the establishment of between 18 and 25 Municipal Councils
in Trinidad and Tobago. These units will be small and intimate enough to
allow real participation. The country will be divided into municipalities on
the following grounds:
a sense of community
Local Authorities are needed to involve the localities in government, to
provide activity for the organisation of political parties, to decentralise
authority and create the talent and the machinery for effective,implementa-
tion of national plans. Local authorities are also needed to make localisation
of the economy possible without a shift to government domination or un-
bridled capitalist expansion.
The Tapia Proposal is to create between 18 and 25 Municipal Councils,
the number depending on how much decentralisation proves feasible within
Port of Spain and San Fernando.
Councils are proposed for the following districts:-
Diego Martin, Port of Spain, San Juan,
Tunapuna, Blanchisseuse, Toco, Arima,
Sangre Grande, Chaguanas, Couva,
Montserrat, Point-a-Pierre, Mayaro,
San Fernando, Princes Town, Rio Claro,
Siparia, Point Fortin.
In order to finalise the list it will be necessary to study carefully the
population distribution and the character of the local economies, but what is
certain is that the units must be small and intimate enough to permit real
These Local Authorities must enjoy greater tax revenues, some of which
can however be centrally collected. They must have real responsibility for
police, fire, education and health services, housing and banking.
These proposals do not weaken central government but rationalise
government in general by providing different functions.
The legislative, planning and directive power of the Central government
in matters of health, for example, will not be weakened but made more
effective by the involvement of local government organs in the establishment
and running of clinics and hospitals in their own areas.
Genuine local government will involve more people in the task of
government and will secure the accountability of Government to the people.
It will also mean that communities which do not support the party in power
will run less risk of being victimised or neglected since the local councils will
have adequate powers.
The Local Government bodies would bargain annually with the central
government over the allocation of funds. This is radically different from the
present system in which the emasculated, ill-conceived County and City
Councils exist with the grudging permission of the central government.
For the purpose of long-term planning and larger-scale projects Tapia
proposes a level of decentralisation into nine regions along lines currently
pursued by the Division of Town and Country Planning.
Tobago is of course an entity requiring a plan unto itself and Tapia will
be presenting a separate statement of proposals for the social and economic
reorganisation of that island-region.
Five other regions are St. Patrick, Victoria, Nariva-Mayaro,St. Andrew-
St. David, and Caroni, all of whichfollowexisting county boundaries. The
remaining three regions share the county of St. George and focus on the need
to humanise the East-West urban Corridor which has sprung up on the boun-
daries of Port of Spain.
IT must be recognized at once that Tobago cannot continue to be relegated
to the status of a county. Both its location and the complexity of its prob-
lems demand that it be given a high degree of autonomy. This might be
achieved by entrusting to a Tobago Council responsibility for a number of
matters which would in Trinidad fall under the central government or
centrally controlled statutory bodies.
For example, the Tobago Council should be able if necessary to provide
for carrying out in Tobago functions such as those of the IDC and the Town
and Country Planning Department; it should be able to fix its own price levels
for food etc., and have the power of review over all national plans, notably in
agriculture and tourism, which affect Tobago fundamentally. At the level of
the Central Government, it will be necessary to ensure that a reasonable
number of representatives of national interest groups in the Senate will be
drawn from Tobago.
THE Tapia objective of participation is also to be achieved by reform of
the electoral system which will:
1. have the confidence of the people and
2. embrace all those who, conceivably, are fit to exercise this highest
The 1971 "elections" demonstrated most effectively that the present
electoral system does not have the confidence of the majority of people. We
deem the following steps to be the minimum, necessary to create public
confidence in the electoral system:-
1. The lowering of the voting age to enable all those 18 years of age, or
less than 18, if married, to vote.
2. Appointment and running of the Elections and Boundaries Com-
missions by the Senate and not as at present by the Prime Minister.
For the next election, before the new Constitution is settled, the
responsibility for preparing and supervision of the poll could be
exercised by the Constituent Assembly through an all-party Com-
mittee which could use the Wooding Commission as an administra-
3. Automatic registration of all eligible voters.
4. Legal right to radio and TV time for all registered political parties
and to government advertising to all party organs.
THE legitimate motives of citizens who ask for proportional representa-
tion must be distinguished from the motives of the politicians who support
The demand for proportional representation is not a new demand. It
was first made to the Wood Commission by the East Indian National Congress"
in 1921. Some conditions giving rise to the demand are the same now as they
were then the country's failure to involve the Indian population in the
governmental process and the defensive reaction this situation imposed on
This reaction is now also evident among other sections of the population
since it has become clear that Doctor Politics and a concentration of the
power of patronage in the hands of the Prime Minister subverts the entire
democracy and dispossesses everyone of the racial groups.
There is now a gigantic coalition of the young, the African, the unem-
ployed and the Indians, all of whom share a keen sense of being cheated by
the post-independence regime and all of whom see Proportional Representa-
tion as one possible way of breaking-up the power bloc of the PNM dis-
In this atmosphere of pessimism and defeat, Proportional Representa-
tion enjoys an easy appeal. But this is precisely the climate which breeds
faction, cabal, and weak, unstable government. The attempt to solve the
problem of political dispossession by the facile device of proportional repre-
sentation may therefore only lead to increasing complication by way of a
perpetuation and entrenchment of existing divisions.
Proportional Representation might reinforce Doctor Politics by aggra-
vating the present tendency of petty leaders to form overnight splinter
parties. The result might not only be more power struggles inside the party
but more fragmentation of the DLP. In the latter case, the people, who over
sixteen years have felt most excluded from government, would continue to
be left out in the cold.
Tapia would therefore support the demand for proportional representa-
tion only if powerful measures were simultaneously adopted to create strong,
national parties held together by responsible leadership and by ideology,
programme and plan.
We-look to the strengthening of local government, to localisation and to
the independence of state agencies such as the Elections and Boundaries
Commissions to bring about multiracialism. The achievement of multiracialism
implies, too, the positive promotion of ethnic and cultural identity not
"assimilation" but co-operation.
In point of fact, all Tapia's proposals are designed to bring about the
development of party politics on a basis other than race.
PEOPLE have seen the inclusion of an Ombudsman in the new constitu-
tional provisions as desirable if not indispensable.
They claim to see the office of Ombudsman as a shield for the citizen
against bureaucratic tyranny and negligence.
These things undoubtedly exist. But what the advocates of the Ombuds-
man want, what we all want, is a guarantee against the political dispossession
from which we have always suffered.
It is this political dispossession that accounts for the desperate
eagerness with which simplistic "solutions" like the Ombudsman are supported.
In so far as the question relates specifically to administration, what we
want is not redress for administrative misdemeanor but an assurance that it
will not continue to occur, a guarantee that we will no longer have to sit by
and watch the machinery of government fall into disrepair without being able
to do anything to stop it.
Therefore, to place the subject of an Ombudsman on the agenda of a
Constitutional Conference is to ask the question backwards.
The important question is not: what kind of Ombudsman do we want?
but rather: how do. we guarantee the supremacy of the people over the
state? How do we ensure a constant surveillance by the people's representa-
tives over the operations of the executive, in order to ensure, among other
things, the efficiency, impartiality and morale of the public service?
This is not to imply that there will not be, in the future, abuses that will
require investigation and redress. Victimisation of the consumer, abuse of
governmental secrecy, sequestration of records, ill-treatment of the public by
jacks-in-office will not disappear overnight.
But what is significant about the cry for redress of these ills is that it
has been raised by definable groups in a definable framework the National
The most immediate task is to ensure the continued involvement of
these groups in the nation's business, in a framework that will give them the
freedom to express themselves without fear and the power to institute
processes of reform.
The office of the Ombudsman in the countries where it already exists
has come into existence to minimise grievances arising out of the complexity
and weight of the governmental system.
The office is itself integrated into the system, and far from implying by
its existence a criticism of that system, it rests upon an acceptance of the
system as basically sound.
Indeed, advocates of an Ombudsman for Trinidad and Tobago con-
tinually speak as if the Ombudsman had power to redress abuses.
In none of the systems is this so. The Ombudsman,rather, reports to
another organ of government in most cases the legislature which then
institutes the process of reform. So it is the strength of the legislature that is
important in the final analysis.
In our case, the validity of our entire system is in question. All our
institutions must be reviewed and a great number of them reshaped.
It is this political task that must concern us now, and the need for
ancillary agencies like an Ombudsman can only be determined when we have "
been able to see how well the reformed institutions operate.
For we do not deny that at some stage in the future it may become de-
sirable to have an Ombudsman or some similar institution.
We say "desirable," not "necessary" or "indispensable," because any
difficulty that merits the use of these terms is not likely to yield to so simple
solution as the institution of an Ombudsman.
That is precisely the situation we are in now. In an exercise in constitu-
tional reform, we must be concerned to determine very clearly what is
contingent and derivative.
In Tapia's view, the citizens' control over the apparatus of state begins
at the point where he has his first and most constant contact with government:
at the community level.
There must be more and stronger organs of local government. Local
government bodies must have more power in matters that directly affect the
community, such as education, police and health, and they must have the
money to make these powers real.
With the members of a community directly concerned in operations
that affect them daily, and controlling the funds that permit these operations
to be carried out, abuse of power by administrators is bound to be reduced.
At the central government level, Tapia is proposing a Senate composed
of representatives of a large number of organizations of all types, these
representatives to be selected and paid by the organizations themselves.
With power to initiate legislation, debate and vote on the first reading
of bills, the Senate will be a powerful watchdog over people's interests in the
corridors of political power.
What is perhaps most important is that as well as maintaining a fairly
constant surveillance of the operation of government in conformity with
existing legislation, Senate groups will ensure a flow of information about the
people's desires into the process of legislation itself, so that bills can be
drafted and amended in the most suitable way from the start.
In addition, the Senate will have the power to investigate any operation
at any time.
The House of Representatives and the legislature as a whole will of
course have this power, but it is the Senate, with its large membership of
groups with specialised skills and interests, that will be able to carry on such
investigation continually and successfully, through standing or ad hoc com-
mittees or any other means it sees fit.
Some of these means (e.g. one-man commission of enquiry) might
even be indistinguishable in function from an Ombudsman, except that they
need not be permanent and certainly need not be written into the Constitution.
The Constitutional exercise we are engaged in now is not only an
attempt to set certain political processes in motion.
It must also initiate certain psychological processes; an overall raising
of morale, the beginnings of confidence in overselves and trust in each other
This means also a commitment to continual work and vigilance on the
part of all, instead of a blind faith in overnight solutions and above all the
pathetic hope for a messiah to solve all our problems for us.
This belief in the possibility of a messiah has been at the heart of our
political insecurity from the beginning.
In 1956 we saw Williams in the role just as we saw Butler in 1937
and Cipriani in 1919. Even when we lost faith in the PNM government we
felt that the betrayal was on the part of the disciples, not the master.
Even in the thorough disillusionment of the post-1970 period, the
possibility of a new messiah was the main hope of a lot of people, and the
latest to fill the role in their minds is Sir Hugh Wooding, who in his capacity
as Chairman of the Constitution Commission is expected to set all things
Tapia opposed this view of the Commission and always insisted that its
deliberations must be viewed as the beginning of a dialogue of interests of
which the Commission could merely be the catalyst and Wooding no more
than a coordinator.
The call for an Ombudsman as a constitutional instrument is a residue
of this yearning for a messiah, and therefore directly opposed in spirit to the
task upon which we are engaged.
To cling to the idea of a messiah is to retain a considerable vestige of
psychological dependency in the very process of psychological liberation.
This is particularly so in the case of those who are seeking an Ombuds-
man with powers of redress in his own right powers that do not belong to
the Ombudsman in any system where the office exists.
There is little use in removing the Prime Minister's unwarranted powers
only to give them to another Doctor in another guise.
The psychological nature of the constitutional exercise also -destroys
another argument put forward by the Ombudsman advocates.
Pascal, the seventeenth-century French theologian, argued-that although
God may or may not exist, it is to our advantage to behave as if he did; for in
that waywe lose nothing if there is no God but save ourselves from damnation
if he does turn out to be real.
A God who set any store by the quality of faith would hardly allow
such a pari-mutuel type option to his creatures.
In the same way, we do not have the option to write an Ombudsman
into the Constitution in case we need him: the confidence in ourselves and our
basic institutions that we must build up if any system is to work is precisely
what will not be created if we believe we can hedge our bets from the beginning.
IN an age dominated by nationalism, our status in the world depends on
our citizenship. We function in the world as a whole only by virtue of the
fact that we possess the citizenship of a sovereign country. It is our citizenship
that assures us the protection of our government when we are abroad, and at
home it secures us the right to be elected to Parliament; the right (together
with other Commonwealth citizens) to vote; the right to acquire land; the
right to work without a working permit; and immunity from exile, deporta-
tion, or extradition by the authorities of another country.
This question of exile or deportation is not just theoretical: since 1970
it has assumed great importance, and political victimization under the guise of
laws, or constitutional provisions, defining citizenship is therefore a matter
for the utmost care.
Yet in Trinidad and Tobago a combination of negligence, ineptitude and
low politics has distorted the citizenship provisions of our Constitution to
such a degree that a very large number of people who considered themselves
Trinidadians had been in fact excluded from citizenship by these very pro-
visions and might in time have found themselves subject to all the disabilities
attendant upon non-national status.
In addition, the Constitution had, and still has, the effect of creating,
among those who are citizens, classes differentiated by possession or non-
possession of certain privileges, namely the right to pass on their citizenship to
children and the right to hold dual citizenship.
The question of citizenship has been seen in emotional terms in terms of
the "loyalty" and "commitment" of the citizen to the State, and in terms of
the aspiration of certain groups, chiefly women, to equality under the
These concerns are legitimate and important, but the question of citizen-
ship, like all Constitutional questions, must be considered first in relation to
historical, geographical and political realities, and secondly, in relation to the
permanent political, legal and administrative arrangements that would make
the duties and privileges of citizenship, both at home and abroad, a permanent
So it all comes back to the question of producing workable Constitutional
provisions that can ensure the permanent control of government by the people
and a permanent flow of information in the process of legislation.
In its attempt to give effect to an ill-considered nationalism, the Con-
stitution required all Trinidadians who had other citizenship to renounce it or
lose their citizenship of this country.
This was done at the same time as the British Government was following its
customary procedure of legislating to allow all those whose fathers or paternal
grandfathers were born in the United Kingdom and colonies to retain UK
Because of the peculiar situation of Trinidad and Tobago, this had the
effect of depriving a large number of our citizens of their citizenship, since
they- were the children or grandchildren of migrants from other Br;tish
Caribbean Colonies of the United Kingdom. In most cases the people affected
did not even know this.
The Oppostiion was as much to blame as the Government for this state of
affairs, because when the Government realized that the provision forbidding
dual citizenship was unworkable, the DLP had sufficient seats to block the
proposed Constitutional amendment.
This does not mean that the Opposition should have refused to assist in
rectifying an error but when the Government proposed in 1965 to repeal the
provision forbidding Trinidad-UK dual citizens to hold both nationalities, the
Opposition made no attempt to even publicise the PNM's stupidity (for it was
a PNM and not a national Constitution).
Still less did they attempt to force a review of the entire question of
citizenship. Instead they collaborated with the Government in plugging the
hole as quietly as possible, leaving all the other holes unplugged.
Not only were the citizenship provisions distorted by negligence, but they
have also been the object of disgraceful tampering by the PNM government
for political purposes.
In order to assist Burnham in finding overseas voters (some people are
unkind enough to say inventing overseas voters) to help him win the Guyana
election, the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament in 1968 amended the Constitu-
tion once again to enable citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and other
"Commonwealth Caribbean territories" to retain dual citizenship. This
amendment was also made with hardly any debate in Parliament or outside.
The. present Constitutional exercise must result in popular control over
the executive, strong enough" to ensure that such disgraceful tampering with
the fundamental law of the land will never recur.
The question of whether or not dual citizenship should be permitted is
therefore to a great extent otiose, because in these two important respects it
has already been admitted, in one case through belatedly but incompletely
recognized necessity, and in the other through dishonesty.
Reverting to the overall principle, we in Tapia feel that dual citizenship
should be permitted to the maximum possible degree.
The 'nationalist' attitude according to which people who acquire or
avail themselves of other citizenships are branded as 'disloyal' and deprived of
their citizenship of this country is an extremely small-minded attitude. It is
the same attitude which dictated that Trinidadians serving in the Federal
Government should be prevented from taking up jobs in the Trinidad and
Tobago service after the death of the Federation.
It is a fact of this country's existence that people are forced to emigrate
to seek a living. To impose on them a choice between poverty and loss of
citizenship is cruel and unnecessary.
It is also a fact that while the countries of Europe and North America are
S widening the limits of travel and employment for their own citizens they are
placing heavier and heavier restrictions on citizens of the newly independent
The Commonwealth Immigrants Act and its successors, whereby the UK
placed severe entry restrictions even on its own black citizens, was a
concomitant of the European Common Market.
When the United States abolished immigration quotas for the rest of the
world, it imposed quotas on Western Hemisphere countries for the first time.
The reason openly given was the appearance in the Hemisphere of three
independent black nations Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
In such a situation, when our citizens are faced with restrictions every-
where else, it is foolish for us to place restrictions on them ourselves. Instead
we should frame our citizenship laws in such a way as to give maximum
advantage to our citizens abroad as well as at home.
When an Englishman wants to register as a Trinidad and Tobago citizen,
in order to reside and work here, Britain facilitates his renunciation of
British citizenship in order to enable him to do it. When he is ready to return
home, Britain gives him his citizenship back on application.
Trinidad and Tobago must do the same. Whatever "renunciation" of
Trinidad and Tobago citizenship is required by the authorities of another
country to permit a Trinidadian to be naturalised there, such renunciation
should have no effect here, and the individuals' Trinidad and Tobago
citizenship should continue unabated.
Under the present Constitution there are groups of citizens who are dis-
advantaged in relation to their fellows. Women are now recognized to be
disadvantaged in that they cannot transmit citizenship to their children'if
such children are born abroad.
This situation could easily have been prevented by the insertion of a
provision allowing registration of the birth of such children at a Consulate.
This is what the 1948 UK Nationality Act does.
But our Constutition does not. The result is that such children not only do
not acquire their father's citizenship but are not eligible for registration along
with other Commonwealth residents of this country. Their only recourse is to
naturalization, like aliens, after the age of 21.
The PNM Government has been also completely delinquent in its
responsibility to take the political, legal and administrative steps necessary for
the fulfilment of its duties to its citizens, particularly to its citizens abroad.
Many of these duties are carried out through consuls, whose job it is to
facilitate the business and legal affairs of citizens abroad. These functions
cannot be assured simply by naming consuls it is necessary to pass a variety
of domestic legislation so that consuls can exist, so that they can be accepted
as such by the countries in which they operate and so that their acts can have
legal validity in this country.
None of this was done. There are people in various countries who were
called "consuls" of Trinidad and Tobago but no official act performed by any
of them could have any effect in Trinidad and Tobago law because in that
law they are non-existent.
There are a lot of people walking about now who have legal documents,
relating to divorce, property ownership and other matters, which they
believe have been "validated" by the signature of a Trinidad Consul.
Such documents are totally invalid, and are subject to challenge in the
In this case, too, the Government did not have the excuse of ignorance.
In 1963, a comprehensive report was submitted to the Minister of External
Affairs setting out in detail all the administrative and legislative machinery
required for Consular representation abroad.
Instead of being acted upon by the Ministry, the report was added as an
appendix to the Alexander report on the Foreign Service.
To this day, not one line of that report has been implemented.
-The watchdog on the operations of the Government in the area of the
foreign relations was supposed to be the Bi-Partisan Foreign Affairs Committee
of the House of Representatives. But this Committee never debated Foreign
Affairs or Foreign Policy.
In fact, Parliament itself almost never debated foreign affairs in eleven
years there have been three statements on foreign affairs in Parliament: two
by Williams and one by Robinson.
The Foreign Affairs Committee was never even constituted a standing
committee of the House and so it conveniently went out of existence at the
end of every session. It soon degenerated into an instrument to screen
applicants for the Foreign Service for political reliability.
The real Foreign Affairs Committee was the General Council of the PNM.
Matters such as Trinidad and Tobago's entrance into the OAS were solemnly
submitted to the PNM General Council for decision before the Government
This combination of inefficiency, negligence and dishonesty can only be
overcome by making the Government continually, accountable for its acts and
providing the legislature and the executive with the information necessary for
national administration of citizenship as well as all other constitutional
These factors would be provided by the kind of legislative and executive
machinery proposed by Tapia. Citizens' needs in the area of overseas pro-
tection and assistance would be made known through the Senate; there
would be groups and individuals in the Senate specialising in foreign affairs in
ia non-partisan way; and there would certainly be foreign affairs committees
of the Senate, the House, the Legislature as a whole (i.e., the Panchayat)
perhaps even all three.
Citizenship provisions must give every possible advantage to citizens
abroad as well as at home. All restrictions on dual citizenship must be
Constitutional provisions relating to the Legislature, the Executive and all
other areas must be such as to give continual legislative and administrative
reality to the rights and duties of citizenship.
Children born abroad of citizens by descent must be able to acquire
citizenship automatically by registration.
Women must be allowed to confer on their husbands the same right to
apply for citizenship by registration as husbands confer on their wives.
WHEN we come together for the first time to write a constitution of our
own, we shall settle for nothing less than full citizenship, the full bundle of
rights. We shall write this social contract with our blood if necessary, and it
shall stiuplate the rights and obligations, the conditions under which we shall
give power to any government. We are demanding the simple natural rights to
think, to talk, to read and write, to walk together, to worship; and we must
enjoy these rights unmolested.
Now in forming a State for our own welfare and protection we must
necessarily surrender some of our rights to it so that it may govern. These
rights must be clearly demarcated. But after that they must be inviolate. The
framers of the present constitution made the rights so absolute that they
retained a discretion to alter and abridge them at will.
That is how they have been able to declare a State of Emergency when
political meetings cannot be held and public opinion is suppressed to enact a
series of legislation which subverts the intention of the constitution. In so
doing they have not only altered the system of government. We no longer have
the little democracy which was won by the national movement with blood
and sweat and tears. The oppressors have taken away virtually every means
whereby a government can be displaced without violence.
This trend, this tendency to destroy the people's rights has been evident
since 1963. The Unions began to oppose the Government. A Commission of
S Enquiry into Subversive Activities was appointed with Sir Louis Mbanefo as
Chairman and Mr. Clinton Bernard, now Deputy Solicitor General, as
Secretary. Manswell, Crichlow, Young, Weekes, and their advisors Lennox
'Pierre, Jack Kelshall, Bernard Primus were summoned to appear before it for
questioning. Lloyd Best, just returned from a Guyana assignment was also
summoned to appear.
Thereafter, the country was taken along that path which in 1970
culminated in the Public Order Bill.
1965 The Industrial Stabilisation Act
1967 Subversive Literature Banned
1968 Stokely Carmichael barred, repudiating
Dual Citizenship by deed
1970 April State of Emergency
In September 1970, the PNM revealed that its first response to the demand
for constitution reform was in the form of the Public Order Bill. It instinctively
turned to repression; new perspectives and the revision of the people's
Charter has been no more than a fudge from Tapia.
A multitude of our rights were to be swept away; the police were to be
militarised; it would have been an offence to criticise them; soldiers were to
be given civil powers of arrest. It would have meant that all these acts of
intimidation and execution currently being committed by the police would
have had to be suffered in silence.
When we resisted the Public Order Bill, it was a matter of life and death.
But since then the Government's policy has been to avoid direct confronta-
tion. Rather, they resort to roundabout devices and steal our rights like a
thief in the night.
Bit by bit the illegitimate 1971 Parliament has reintroduced the Public
Order Bill by way of:-
An Act of amend the Sedition Ordinance
An Act to amend the Summary Offences Ordinance
The Firearms Act
The Industrial Relations Act
Administrative denial of bail
Administrative restriction of detainees to have immediate access
The Government has been blatantly disregarding the writ of Habeas
4Corpus, that famous common law protection which the citizen has against
the encroachments of the Executive. That right whereby the Courts can
command the Executive to produce a body in custody or show cause for not
so doing, has been rapidly disappearing.
Lawyers have difficulty in contacting their clients in prison. Every obstacle
is presented to prevent the prisoner from preparing his defence.
In 1971 Justice Malone told Kelshall on his application for the Writ of
Habeas Corpus, "From this moment you are a free man." Kelshall was
rearrested for no good reason. For weeks his case was heard by the Review
Tribunal, and as it became clear that he would have been released the
detention order was revoked and he was put under house arrest.
This only goes to show what a mockery that Tribunal is. It cannot order
release, it cannot order compensation, it cannot even order a copy of its
findings to be made available to accused as stipulated by the Emergency
The Tribunal conceals the identity of the accuser, the informer from the
the accused. So the accused is forced to build a defence against the figment of
any fool's imagination. The police are ever present taking notes so that behind
the back of the accused they can and do plant or root up evidence.
All this happens in a country said to have a proper respect for the rights
and freedom of the individual.
It is a constitutional right to have a speedy trial. Yet there are people on
charges pending for three years without a hearing.
Tapiamen have gone before the Review Tribunal because we believe in
due process. We are prepared to stand before any forum to plead the justice
of our case.
Tapia is proposing that detainees have redress through the ordinary open
court. If a Review Tribunal be set up it should be a Court appointed by the
Chief Justice, not the Prime Minister, and it should not be, as now, a
Commission of Inquiry into Subversive Activities. The Tribunal must come
into existence at the same time with the State of Emergency.
When a State of Emergency is declared, within 14 days the Government
must appear before the National Panchayat to give reasons. The vote should
bebindingon the Government.
A political detainee commits no offence, otherwise he will be charged and
tried in Court. If the State has a presumption that he poses a threat to public
safety then only his movements ought to be restrained. He ought to enjoy
all other comforts and freedoms.
Where freedom of expression of every kind is under siege, the entrench-
ment of Freedom of the Press is more than justified if only as a pledge of
the kind of freedom we want.
When Policemen feel that they have the right to slant their releases to the
press; when even Trade Union leaders can threaten the press by contem-
plating the boycott of handling newsprint; when business men withdraw
advertising because of criticism; when all government ads, both from statutory
boards and other departments of State go only to certain favoured news-
papers we must enshrine it that the press must be free.
Tapia has repeatedly stated that the current constitution crisis er
the entire structure of our country's life. Discussions on constitution
must therefore include discussion on every aspect of our existence
attempt to find a framework for the solution of the fundamental and
term problems that confront us.
The written Constitution is only a contract of collaboration. This doc
cannot contain the answers to our problems, but merely the _es
principles and institutions that we feel will give us the best chance of
them. It is therefore important for us to judge carefully what is ba
what is incidental.
A number of issues have been aired which Tapia feels are essential
cussions of constitution reform but do not, require to be reflected dire
any Constitutional document.,One these, the Ombudsman, is deal
at length in these proposals because .. seems to have considerable impc
for a lot of people. Even in this case the Tapia view is that there is no ni
provision of such an institution in the constitutional document; and th
other problems whose solutions we feel will be satisfactorily provided
the distribution of functions and the allocation of powers we are prol
rather than by specific constitutional provisions.
Proper ministerial responsibility, ensured by an adequate legislative
ture, will include a properly responsbile Minister for Legal Affail
Attorney General). Such a Minister could hardly fail to work out and ins
a system whereby the functions of a Director of Public Prosecutioi
adequately carried out. Similarly, the watchdog functions of a prc
representative and accountable legislature over public accounts in gi
could hardly fail to ensure that the Auditor General reported at ade
intervals and that procedures for control of funds were adequate and (
tive. It would therefore be unnecessary to specify the details of
functions in the Constitution.
NAME -------------- ----- -
I enclose $ ........ as per rates listed below
T&T .............. S12.00 TT
CARICOM ......... 18.00 Vw
CARiBBEAN... .... 12.50 'S
US/CANADA. ....... 15.00 LZ
UK .............. L 8.00 UK
W. F'ROPE ....... 10.00 UK
WEST AFPJCA ......1.2.00 UK
INDIA. ........... 12.00 UK
AUSTRALIA. ......12.00 UK
EAST AFRICA...... 15.00 UK
FAP EAST......... 15.50 UK
All overseas deliveries irmadl.
Surface mail rates on request
RETURN TO: Tapia House Publishing Co. Ltd,
91, Tunapuna Road, Tunapuna Phone 662-5126
Trinidad & Tobago
.- 0 19 '1
Printed by Tapia House Printing Co. Ltd., for the Tapia House
Publishing Co. Ltd., 91 Tunapuna Rd., Tunapuna