1 Mar 2010

Dictatorships and the need for Eternal Vigilance

I strongly suggest reading Michael Harris’ column today. Here are some relevant bits that stand out.

…there has been a great deal of commentary on the Government's proposal to disband the Inland Revenue division and the Customs and Excise division of the Public Service and to replace them with a new Revenue Authority which would not be part of the Public Service.

The two key issues of the debate were very well defined by Lucie-Smith. The first is the treatment of the employees of the two divisions to be disbanded and the second, 'is that the Board of the Authority would be appointed by the Cabinet and governance would not be subject to public service rules. '

While there are serious implications for industrial relations policy and practice inherent in the Government's approach to the first issue, it is the second issue which really is of far more importance in terms of the political and constitutional future of the country.

…Spence in his article would have none of it. He is of the view that, 'the setting up of the RA is part of a policy position on the part of this Government that intends to replace the Public Service as far as possible with institutions that it can control directly ' And further that 'Since constitutional change may not be achieved the Government is removing the role of service commissions one sector at a time.'

Spence goes on to state that, 'It is important that there be a national debate on this policy which is being implemented surreptitiously without clear enunciated (sic) of it as Government policy. '

…And the critical issue here is not the question of the 'cost-benefit analysis' of these enterprises but the fact that these enterprises are expressly designed to circumvent the oversight provisions of the Constitution.

The first is the danger of corruption… / … what the Government was proposing could lead to the wholesale and wanton looting of the National Treasury. …All we have to realise is that oversight is now effectively limited to the relevant minister and to the integrity, experience, time and interest of the members of the board he appoints.

The second and even greater danger which arises is the political and constitutional one. Here the pattern of intent is even clearer. There can be no doubt that the Government is bent on introducing a model of governance in which the central executive dominates and controls all aspects of national life.

This intent is clear from the Government’s draft constitution and its proposal for an executive presidency. The intent is clear from the provisions of that same draft constitution as they relate to control of the DPP and the Judiciary. The intent is manifest from the Government’s proposals on Local Government reform which would effectively destroy any degree of autonomy and authority in Local Government. And it is clear from all these ’special purpose enterprises’.

And, as Spence points out, the Government is intent on introducing its model of governance without any discussion with the national community. The pattern of surreptitious subversion of our Constitution is clear. It is a pattern of creeping dictatorship.

If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck the chances are that it is a duck. And at the very least sensible persons would operate on the premise that it is a duck until there is credible evidence to the contrary.

Eternal vigilance!