|A second referendum needed?
The opposition parties argue against the proposed Referendum on several grounds; that it is redundant as the government already has a mandate to enact a new constitution as that was an issue at the elections the PA has won albeit with a small margin, that it does violence to the spirit of the Constitution and that the question is cunningly worded as to trap the (sovereign?) people into a position in which they get caught whichever they vote and additionally commits the country to an enormous cost to get a reply that throws no new light on the issue. The question is an exercise in tautology.
The straight forward and honest question would have been Do you need a new constitution? The government position is that the present electoral system will never give a government the two-thirds majority required for constitutional amendments and the only way out is by appealing to the people over the heads of the Parliament. One may agree or disagree with these arguments, but when the government is determined to hold the referendum the people have to vote one way or the other.
To enable the people to cast their vote, despite the cunning wording of the question, there is an important issue on which the government has to make unequivocal statement; the procedure that would be followed to get the new constitution promulgated in case the majority answers in the affirmative. The present question does not contain the nature and content of the new constitution; it only asks whether a new constitution is necessary or not.
There have been some vague and contradictory statements regarding the principles and the procedure that would be adopted, but such statements are no substitute to a comprehensive draft of the constitution for consideration and the procedure for adoption. Even an ordinary law, much less the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land cannot be adopted without the draft bill being made available for thorough scrutiny. If the intended procedure is different from what is set out in the present constitution as has been stated in devious ways, the true position has to be spelt out before the people are required to cast their vote.
The President has hedged when this question was raised at a meeting with the diplomatic community. The Prime Minister has assured that saying yes does not imply acceptance of a particular type of constitution. Verbal statements made from platforms cannot be taken seriously. The Prime Minister once went on record as saying that Party Manifestos are not meant to be implemented, but only to catch votes during election time. If Parliament is to be by- passed as is implied in the statements made by government spokesmen/ women, the new draft has to be placed before the people.
Will the government therefore, make a formal statement in writing, not by way of fire and thunder with little sense as the Prime Minister is wont to do of late from platforms, but by way of a gazette notification or a formal press notice that if the majority response to the present referendum is in the affirmative, the new draft constitution will be placed before the people in a second referendum for their approval. If the government does so, I will say Yes at the forthcoming referendum. If not, it will be an emphatic No as the majority of the people will do.
No self respecting voter will leave it to the good sense (Is there any left?) and
discretion to the government to enact a constitution that is nationally important,
and an essential requirement without referring it to the people for their approval.
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