CATHOLIC NEWS Sunday, September 23 2012
The furore that Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act 2011 set in motion raises concerns about the quality of the country’s leadership and its part in building a free society.
The Catholic News editorial of June 16, 1962 as the country entered the final phase of preparation for Independence, stressed the importance of good leadership. It acknowledged that the “constant attention of the ordinary citizen” is also vital for the kind of society that we seek to build in Trinidad and Tobago, but it stated:
“The task we face as a new nation is to keep our ideals high. And this is partly a question of leadership. Even in a democracy leaders must lead. If our citizens are to capture a sense of mission with respect to the purposes we care the most about, our leaders must have the capacity and the vision to strive for it.
“It is hard to expect an upsurge of devotion to the common good in response to leaders who lack the moral depth to understand such devotion — or the courage to evoke it, or the stature to merit the response which follows. One of the great tasks of leadership is to help a society achieve the best that is in it.”
The question, 50 years after, is how are we doing.
In his address at the opening of the Law Term 2012/2013, Chief Justice Ivor Archie encouraged reflection on this question against the framework of the nation’s Constitution which, like every other constitution of its kind, embodies” a value system and a philosophy about the way in which we wish to be organised and governed”, he said.
The Constitution was “not merely a tool of redress”, for the purpose of “defining rights and dividing power”, he emphasised, but “a guide to current and future conduct.”
In his “conversation with the nation”, as the Chief Justice seems to prefer to call these formal addresses, Justice Archie asked: “If we say that the constitution is our supreme Law then should we not judge...the behaviour of our leaders by the extent to which they tend to create the sort of society we envisage in the preamble (of the Constitution)? A society based on very definite notions of social and economic justice.”
In June 1962, our leaders somehow resolved then the issues that set them apart. So our editorial said, with some optimism, that for Trinidad and Tobago “there could be no more welcome omen for the future of the nation than that the leaders of Government and Opposition have pledged themselves to work together for the progress, peace and well-being of the country”.
While “meaningful constitutional reform”, one that deals with structural deficiencies, may indeed be an important step in bringing about the development of our people, as Justice Archie believes, those whom we place in positions of leadership must lead; must be resolved to live and act by the spirit of the Constitution as it exists.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is aware that his disciples are arguing among themselves about who is the greatest. He calls the would-be leaders together and says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).