The road to 'true democracy'
FAQs on the draft constitution
published : 28 Mar 2015 at 20:26
writer: Lt Gen Navin Damrigan
Lt Gen Navin Damrigan, a constitution writer, shares his view on the Thailand the Constitution Drafting Committee has in mind once the new charter takes effect, and how the new highest law can bring about such transformation.
Q: What or who is the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC)?
A: The CDC is the 36-member body tasked with preparing the draft Constitution. The chairman was nominated by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The members of the National Reform Council (NRC) elected 20 delegates among themselves. The NCPO, the cabinet and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) each chose five.
The interim constitution stipulates that the draft constitution must cover the following:
(1) The principle of being one and indivisible kingdom;
(2) The democratic system of government with the King as the head of state which is suitable for Thai society;
(3) Efficient mechanisms for the prevention, examination, and suppression of corruption in both the public and private sectors, including mechanisms to regulate and restrict the exercise of state powers to ensure that such use will be for the overall benefit the nation and the public;
(4) Efficient mechanisms for the verification and prevention of any person whom, under a judgment or legal order has been convicted of corruption or malfeasance, or committed acts which undermined the trustworthiness or fairness of an election from ever holding any political position;
(5) Efficient mechanisms to enable state officials, especially a person holding political office, and political parties to perform their duties or activities independently and without illegal domination or direction by any person or group of persons;
(6) Efficient mechanisms for strengthening the rule of law and enhancing the practice of moral, ethical and good governance in all sectors and at all levels;
(7) Efficient mechanisms for restructuring and driving economic and social systems towards fairness and sustainability and for the prevention populist national administration which could, in the long term, damage the national economy and the public;
(8) Efficient mechanisms to ensure effective spending of state funds which shall be responsive to the overall interests of the public and be consistent with the fiscal and financial status of the nation, and efficient mechanisms for the audit and disclosure thereof;
(9) Efficient mechanisms to prevent damage to the fundamental principles to be laid down by the new constitution;
(10) Mechanisms to ensure ongoing important reforms are driven to completion.
Furthermore, the CDC shall deliberate on the necessity and justification of the constitutional organs and other organisations to be established by the provisions of the constitution. When deemed necessary, measures to ensure the efficiency and efficacy of such organisations shall be addressed.
To prevent any "conflict of interests", no member of the CDC shall hold any political position within two years after vacating office.
Q: Why are reforms necessary and what will be newly incorporated into the constitution?
A: Thailand has been in a state of escalating conflict for the past 10 years. The conflict, like a vortex, has drawn all institutions, organisations, political parties and peoples into the fray, sparing none. Differences have taken root, disrupted the unity of the nation, and created deep colour-coded divisions that pit Thais against Thais. Needless to say, the repercussions have left the nation stranded and stagnant, especially with respect to other nations, Asean or otherwise, that continue their fortitude to progress.
This militarily-forced respite is an opportunity to pause, consider, and address the past, present, and future of the nation and not a time to be deceived or lulled into complacency that the storm has passed. Left unaddressed, these divisions could ominously signal the lull before the storm.
Looking at the past, few would doubt that - throughout and resulting from the last five decades of national development - disparity in income, wealth distribution, corruption, and access to opportunities constitutes the underlying root cause of the social and economic ills of the nation.
To put into perspective,
- 20% of the wealthiest citizens own 54% of the nation's GDP while the bottom 20% own only 4%. The bottom 60% of citizens share only 25% of the GDP.
- 10% of the wealthiest citizens have 75% of the nation's wealth while the other 90% hold only 25 % according to Credit Suisse's latest numbers on Global wealth.
- Savings accounts that hold over 10 million baht - accounting for 42% of national savings - belong to only 70,000 individual accounts. Multiple accounts could signify that almost half of all money in the banks is owned by fewer than 30,000 individuals out of a total of 60,000,000.
How this came about can be attributable to two groups of the citizenry - the politicians and the people. Politicians have been notoriously untrustworthy, non-transparent, and seem lacking in morality, ethics, and honesty; the rich get richer through bought influence while the poor lose whatever they had. The ongoing case for malfeasance in the rice pledging scandal is a case in point. We have problems....
- There exists a seeming lack of balance between the voters, who hold only four minutes of democratic power at the polling booths every few years, and the electorate that abuse power, year on year.
- There exists a seeming lack of balance between voter preference for particular individuals and party representation, and the actuality that falls far short of expectation.
- Finally, there exists a seeming lack of balance between people participation and the political process which has, heretofore, mostly excluded the citizenry.
It is imperative that to attempt to remedy the ills of the past is not enough, but we also need to meet the challenges of the future. Thailand will be a fully functioning member of the Asean Community this December. Strategically located at the heart of Asean, we have yet to leverage our advantage. Will we be a leader on the crest of the wave when Asia rises or do we get left behind in the trough? Can we dig ourselves out of the quagmire that we have buried ourselves? Can we optimistically look forward towards the future without pessimistically dwelling on the past? Can we regain our presence on the regional stage, let alone the world stage and become a player and not a bystander?
That is why reform is necessary.
What then should be incorporated into our reform constitution?
To encapsulate, we need to empower the citizens, cleanse and balance politics, support a just society and foster national serenity.
Q: What does empowering the citizens mean?
A: Firstly, before I elaborate further on citizen empowerment, let me say that the concept of citizenship is wholeheartedly embraced for the first time in this constitution. In previous constitutions, other words were used such as "subjects" or "people". There is a distinct difference, in connotation and denotation, more so in the Thai language than in the English.
"Subjects" are followers, less interested in politics because either it is above their station in life or because they are far too busy trying to eke out a living than to "play" politics. Citizenship is more than just an aggregation of people in a city or nation. It signifies inclusiveness and, through mutual understanding, that citizens have national membership; basic rights and liberties; civil and political rights; voting privileges at all levels; economic, social, and cultural rights; community rights; obligations to military service, to taxation, and to abide by the constitution and the law.
The state provides, in return, protection; security; rule of law; equal access to education, health services, and life's basic needs; equal opportunities for its citizens to achieve their goals and potential; and pledges that the use of state power and the administration thereof will be transparent, conducted with good governance, due diligence, and that all utilisation of national resources will be for the common good.
Secondly, while many would say that citizenship, as explained, would always seem to exclude non-citizens from basic rights and privileges but that is not the case for this constitution. This may be the first constitution worldwide that has a separate human rights chapter as well as chapters on citizen rights and obligations. Human dignity is recognised and basic rights and liberties are extended to all who reside or are in the borders of the kingdom. These liberties and rights include among other things, the right to life, equality before the law, freedom of speech and communication, the right to a fair trial, the right to a family, the right to privacy in one's dwelling, the right to property, and freedom of religion. Many classify these as generally liberties that mandate, on the state, their non-interference in the individual's affairs and are hence known as "negative rights".
While these liberties indubitably extend to citizens, the list of citizen rights and obligations are far more extensive. The rights, expectedly, include internationally recognised political, economic, social, cultural, and community rights. It is of note that this is the first Thai constitution that addresses family and maternal rights, from pre to post-natal; the basic needs of the citizens, i.e. food, shelter, healthcare, and clothing; education in the formative years of kindergarten that extends free education from the previous 12 to 15 years.
Another example of citizen empowerment is the paradigm shift on allocation of the frequency spectrum for communications and broadcast that now places the best interests of the citizens above that of maximising state profits, i.e. based on making communications and broadcast affordable and accessible. Furthermore, all natural resources, from petroleum to forestry, are recognised as national resources to be used for the common good and not for the profit of certain individuals or groups of individuals.
This constitution holds to the philosophy that "...for every right that a person has, there is a responsibility connected with that right - not only as an obligation on other people to not violate that right but also on the state to respect, protect and fulfil those rights...". As such, the philosophy will be enshrined in the highest law of the land. Some examples of where the state's obligation vis-a-vis the rights of the citizens, commonly referred to as "positive rights" appears verbatim or in spirit in this constitution are:
- The state is mandated to instil, within its citizens, the adherence to a constitutional monarchy system of government, democratic values, and shall provide for the training of its citizens at all levels, groups, and ages to institute citizenship under this chapter.
- The state is mandated to provide and promote the provision of education and training for both professional and private organisations, for lifelong learning, self-directed learning, alternative education, and other varieties of education of the people so as to promote morality, spiritual development, and wisdom.
- The state must provide adequate funds (for the people's independent Consumer Protection Organisation)
- The state shall arrange for a comprehensive public consultation and consider the public's recommendations prior to decision-making with due accord given to historical and cultural lands.
- And most importantly, Article 30, which is the overarching "positive right" that obligates the state to respect, protect, and fulfil those rights guaranteed by the constitution ... "The rights of persons guaranteed by this constitution obligates the state and its agencies to ensure efficacious exercise of such rights. In satisfying its obligations, the state shall provide for [reasonable and] progressive realisation of those rights within its available resources."
Available state funds are necessary for the progressive realisation of rights and, as such, some qualifications as in Article 30 are necessary but the intent to provide for Thai citizens is clear and unequivocal.
Thirdly, citizen empowerment is through enhanced political participation and involvement in the administration.
- 10,000 citizens can propose laws in which government agencies are mandated to provide assistance in drafting. Even if that proposed law is side-tracked by legislative body dissolution, it remains on the books for consideration by the next legislature without the need to be re-verified as opposed to laws proposed by a former cabinet or former legislative body. The citizen proposed laws are indestructible until fully scrutinised. Even if it does not pass the legislative process, one tenth of members of parliament, whether it be representatives, senators, or a combination thereof, can put forward a motion to have the law passed through national referendum.
- The formation of the Citizens' Council at the provincial level, comprised of representatives of civic organisations, private sector representatives, academics, natural leaders, to come together to provide input and direction to the provincial governors and provincial executives and to the administrators of all community based administration. Moreover, this Citizens' Council will be participatory in the indirect election of senators.
- The formation of a Civic Scrutiny Council, mandated by law, to monitor and scrutinise state projects and budget utilisation at the provincial level is significant. Comprised one quarter from the Citizens' Council, one quarter from civic societies, and the other half from citizen representation, the body is purposely designed to prevent heartbroken politicians from usurping this council, exercising their Mafioso-like influence over the citizens, but a council truly representing the local people. The selection process for the members should be at least as stringent and inclusive as selecting jurists to a trial (in western countries) and the term of office should not be long enough to perpetuate influence. Moreover, local bodies such as the provincial election commission can act as the secretariat for this body, without undue increase in government expenditure. National scrutiny is in the media's spotlight, looks at the bigger picture and sometimes loses sight of the underhanded dealings at the provincial level.
The province-based Civic Scrutiny Council will oversee this lapse.
- At the national level, citizens empowerment is through the establishment of a National Ethics Assembly that will draft an ethical code of conduct and scrutinise the ethical conduct of senior political persons, from the PM, the cabinet, to members of the House of Representatives, and the senators to abide by these rules. Physical altercations in the public view in Parliament are no longer tolerable, for instance. Serious breaches of ethical conduct will now be scrutinised by the National Ethics Assembly and, if found wanting, will be forwarded to the Election Commission (EC) for entry into the recall list. This list will enable voters, at the next general election, to express their vote of confidence whether to allow these persons to be their ongoing political representatives or not. MPs or senators will be recalled at the region from which they were elected or reside in; the prime minister and ministers will be recalled nationwide. The resulting vote of no-confidence will ban these persons from public representation for five years.
The question commonly asked is why wait for the next general election and not have the no-confidence vote right away. The simple answer is the prohibitive cost of each and every referendum. Therefore, at next elections, citizens may have an extra recall ballot for ethical misconduct. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) will investigate other forms of political malfeasance or corruption. If there are grounds for further action, the case is forwarded to Parliament for impeachment and the Supreme Court for Holders of Political Office for legal action. Malfeasance and Corruption cases are handled differently from ethical misconduct because of the voluminous paperwork and legal technicalities that requires both time and expertise.
- Another empowerment of citizens is their ability to rearrange a political party's election list. Thailand will be using the mixed member proportional (MMP) election system to ensure that every vote counts. Each voter will receive two ballot forms, one for the constituency seat and one for the party list. This is similar to past elections but for the introduction of MMP to replace mixed member majoritarian (MMM) and the "open list". Political parties or groups will vie for 250 constituency seats nationwide and 200 party list seats to be calculated at the national level but allocated in six regional lists (each with about 35 names).
On a closed-list system, citizens were limited to voting for their party without any say on their preferred party list candidate. Parties could and did place capitalists and VIPs at the top of the list to ensure selection. This meant complete party domination over the voter's will. With the open list, voters not only choose their preferred political party but also their single preferred list candidate. The regional party list can therefore be rearranged by voter preference with the most individual preference votes rising to the top. It is entirely possible for a bottom ranked list member to rise to the top on the strength of his or her past performance record or a top ranked list member fall to the bottom for whatever reason.
- Referendums are another channel of citizen empowerment. Referendums will be needed to amend important principles in the constitution if such amendments pass a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Referendums can be also be called for on other matters as dictated by law, requested by the cabinet, or to settle regional issues.
As can be seen, the list of citizen empowerments is extensive indeed. It is a shame that normal citizens do not have media access in which to express their satisfaction with their empowerment. As such, this very important aspect of the new constitution remains both unaddressed and sadly reflects how small the voice of the citizens is.
Q: What does cleanse and balance politics mean?
A: In our endeavour to foster clean politics,
- This will be the kingdom's first constitution to have a chapter on good ethical and moral political leadership. Political parties must be democratic at their core and have transparent and verifiable party finances.
- This constitution establishes a National Ethics Assembly to codify ethical standards of conduct for holders of political office and governmental employees at all levels. The assembly is to not only monitor and scrutinise ethical conduct but also tasked with reporting, individually, on the ethical conduct of senior political office-holders, i.e. the PM, cabinet members, members of the House of Representatives, and members of the Senate on a yearly basis. Serious breaches of ethical conduct by senior political office-holders will be investigated and, if sufficient grounds are found, recall procedures would be initiated through the EC and that name will be placed for voter recall at the next general election, as mentioned earlier. Impeachment proceedings for other political office holders would be conducted through the parliament while unethical governmental officers would be disciplined by their superiors.
- All seekers of political office, at all levels, must present proof of personal income-tax submissions over the previous three years for public scrutiny.
- Governmental agencies must fully disclose use of state funds, including financial transactions with the private sector for public scrutiny.
- Citizens must be a part of the effort in curbing corruption; indeed they should have the duty to do so. Whistle-blowers need to be protected by the government albeit with adequate mechanisms to prevent slander or abuse of the system for personal gain.
- This constitution seeks to empower the EC to have more regulatory power over elections, hold free and fair elections, and prevent vote buying or collusion. As such, there will be a new election organising committee to unburden the EC with the organisational aspects of elections so that it may focus exclusively on the scrutiny.
Previously, the EC had to both organise and oversee elections, being both the operator and the regulator. With only 2,000 plus in manpower, the EC was unable to do all this alone. It had to rely on personnel from various ministries that had personnel adequately situated in all areas. This meant enlisting the assistance of the Ministries of Interior, Education, Health, and Agriculture and Cooperatives. It is precisely these people, officials embedded in situations that are the election canvassers, instrumental in vote buying. These canvassers, in the 17-year history of the EC, have never been caught, apprehended, or punished - for they were part of the official "election team". To find fault within your team is to find fault with yourself.
Distanced from the organising, the EC can now find fault both with non-neutral colluding officials and with vote buyers. Will the provincial EC remain? Yes, for they will remain an indispensable element in scrutinising elections. This is systematic checks and balance.
- The NCCC's burden on countering corruption will now be focused only on the serious issues of scrutinising senior political office holders from the PM, cabinet ministers, to MPs and senators, and on senior influential governmental employees down only to the director-general level. Giving too much scope to the NCCC's responsibilities limited their effectiveness and swift response.
- A separate channel to address accusations against state officials and political office holders of wasting state funds is established through the Fiscal Discipline and Budget Division of the Administrative Court. This effectively fills in the gap between the NCCC's purview of corruption and malfeasance, and the National Ethics Assembly's purview of unethical conduct.
Impeachment is a direct use of political authority yet only one impeachment case, through the National Legislative Assembly, has been successful. The necessary three-fifths majority had never been attained and to send corruption cases to the Supreme Court for Political Office Holders is effective only when prosecutors can prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt". So it is that a "receipt" is needed, evidence must be binding before any case can stick - and in many cases, such evidence is scarce indeed.
So, grey areas that are neither white nor black needs to be addressed.
Issues such as ongoing use of state funds on policies that could cause enormous national fiscal or financial loss - that is neither yet corrupt nor yet unethical - still needs judicial review. The impropriety in the continuance of such policies that have a detrimental fiscal or financial impact can be brought to court and the burden of proof to the contrary rests with the accused. This, we are confident, will curtail irresponsible use of state funds.
As mentioned, the measures above are drafted into the constitution to clean up politics but there is yet another side to the coin of politics and that is balance. To achieve political balance, we need balance between political power and citizen empowerment. Democracy is not four minutes at the polling booths every four years but ongoing political involvement and participation throughout.
We also need balance between the House of Representatives and the Senate. We have, traditionally, a bicameral parliament and this constitution maintains that tradition. While many nations do well with a unicameral House of Representatives, saving costs and time, it could well become, for Thailand, a runaway train towards a deep chasm without brakes. Let us reimagine the recent amnesty bill that was deliberated by the previous House of Representatives. Without the Senate, the House would have immediately passed the bill with an overwhelming majority. What divisions and havoc would that bill be wreaking in the kingdom now? Therefore, a bicameral parliament allows time to reflect on consequences, necessitates patience, and ensures that decisions are not made in haste.
The CDC believes for this to be truly effective, the make-up of the two houses must be sufficiently different to provide balance.
If the lower house is political, based on popular electoral support of the people, and the upper house is built on the same electoral base, then the two houses become mirror images of one another and balance is lost.
By design, the lower house will be a political representation of citizen votes, through an MMP election system, with a majority selecting the PM. It also has no-confidence oversight of the administration.
The Senate will be a pluralist chamber, indirectly voted from functional components of society, based on profession rather than geography. All non-political sectors from functional professionals will find seats in this chamber - for it is not only politicians that can lead or administrate. Let me recount the thoughts of Montesquieu, the eminent French champion of separation of powers, which stated in an often unquoted passage that the best political structure is one that had built-in inclusivity and apportioning power among political actors in a way that minimises opportunities for those actors to determine conclusively the reach of their own powers.
Ours is built upon that philosophy. The Senate, of no more than 200, must represent the apolitical professional cross-section of the citizenry.
- The third political balance is through the introduction or adoption of the MMP election system. This is introduced to the nation's electoral system to ensure that every vote counts and that over or under-representation is minimised. At our last election under MMM, the largest party with 44.47% of the votes received 54.67% of the legislative seats while the next largest party with 31.88% of the votes received 30.4% of the legislative seats. This lopsided proportionality translates to 38 MPs too many for the largest party and the smaller parties suffered the most. MMP will address this disproportionality through a combination of 250 constituency seats and 200 party list seats, calculated at the national level but allocated at the regional level. The final seats in the House of Representatives will closely mirror the party proportional preference of the voters. There may be some overhangs at the regional level so, to accommodate for this, the total MP seat is set to no more than 470. Precise details of the mathematics of calculations will be addressed in the organic law pertaining to elections which will dictate the primary or secondary degrees of allocations to reduce disproportionality.
While it is true that MMP may lead to a coalition government, history tells us that a parliamentary dictatorship is neither preferable nor desired. Germany learned the same lesson before us. Parliamentary dictatorship, through a clear majority, disempowers the opposition and they take to the streets to force political redress on the people through unrest blackmail. The cycle perpetuates and that has been our legacy for the past 10 years. To mend the political rift, and the consequent national rift, we need reconciliation and dialogue. We need political parties to dialogue and not to dominate one another.
- The fourth political imbalance that needs to be addressed is citizen empowerment versus party authoritarianism. The party apparatus is controlled by the party VIPs and the capitalists that fund the elections. With the new availability to enter the elections through less stringently controlled political groupings, the prospect is even more ominous.
Nonetheless, real interest groups need this opening to gain a foothold on the political arena and the constitution facilitates this.
It remains a sad fact, though, that recovering investments through prestige political positions - and corruption at worse or incompetence at best - is just business, but at the national expense.
Party lists and rankings, once controlled solely by political parties, will now be placed at the voter's discretion. Party lists will now be "open" rather than "closed". This means that when a voter votes for their preferred party representation, they also have the right to pick their single preferred party list candidate. More preferences move that candidate up the part list and vice versa. This empowers the citizens to take authority and remake the list to their preference, do away with symbiotic capitalists, and elect truly professional lawmakers that have good track records.
- The fifth political imbalance is power between the two houses. For the House of Representatives, the speaker of the House also serves as the president of the National Assembly of Thailand. This House chooses the PM, through open elections; controls the government through the vote of no-confidence; proposes Law; and has the final decision if there is any disagreement between the two Houses.
The Senate, chosen through indirect elections, will also be able to submit laws; meet together with the House of Representatives to vote on impeachment motions that are to be passed by a majority of the two Houses combined; and meet together with the House of Representatives to vote on amendments to the major principles of the constitution that needs to be passed by a two thirds majority of the two houses combined. The president of the Senate of Thailand is also vice president of the National Assembly of Thailand.
- Sixth is creating balance between the party line and independence of representatives.
Non-representatives are prohibited from dictating party line voting for members of the House of Representatives. Resignation from a political party or political group strips a member of the House of Representatives status. This prevents a representative from switching alliances and selling oneself off to the highest bidder.
A representative has full independence of vote in the House of Representatives. To ensure this, in the event that a political party or political group strips a representative of their affiliation, that representative does not lose his or her representative status.
- The seventh balance is to have clear separation of powers between the administration and the legislature. A House of Representative member cannot concurrently be a cabinet minister. In turn, members of the House of Representative cannot undermine administration stability by switching allegiances and voting for no-confidence, siding with the opposition for a no-confidence vote automatically triggers House dissolution.
As mentioned earlier, no-confidence votes have never been successful as a tool to hold the administration accountable. The above stipulation "encourages" the opposition to use more effective means of scrutinising and holding the administration to account, i.e. the NCCC or the Fiscal Discipline and Budget Division of the Administrative Court.
The prime minister may ask for a vote of confidence from the House of Representatives. A no-confidence vote means both the administration and the House are dissolved.
The prime minister may declare a cabinet proposed law or any part thereof as a vote-of-confidence submission.
When the legislature waters down or distorts a government bill until it is unrecognisable, the administration can declare the proposed law a vote of confidence. When such a declaration is made, if the House of Representatives does not initiate a "no-confidence" motion within 48 hours, that bill automatically passes through the lower house and proceeds unchanged to the upper house. If the vote-of-no-confidence is pursued, voting determines the outcome. A victory for the administration means the bill automatically passes through the lower house while a defeat means both the administration and the House are dissolved. This prevents the House from holding a Law for ransom or from undue influence negotiations. To prevent administrative dictatorship, though, such declarations are allowed only once every session of meetings.
- The eighth balance necessary is the balance between politicians that set policy and civil servants that implement policy.
Politicians or ministers will not be able to interfere in civil servant appointments or transfers. A commission, appointed by active permanent secretaries, will oversee such transfers based on merit. Moral, ethical, and good governance principles will be watchwords.
- The final balance to be addressed is between the coalition and the opposition. Previously, the speaker of the House who also serves as the president of the National Assembly of Thailand and his two deputies all came from the government coalition.
Now, the first deputy must come from the second largest Party. In all likelihood, the opposition will then have the first deputy speaker post. Furthermore, important committees that have scrutiny functions, such as the Counter Corruption and Malfeasance Reform Committee must be chaired by a member of the opposition.
Q: How can we create a just society?
A: We have numerous reforms written into the first "chapter" of the fourth "book" of the draft constitution. This "book" is designed as a "sunset legislature" with self-expiration in five years unless 50,000 citizens, or Parliament, or the cabinet proposes an extension. The one-time extension for another five years must be approved by a public referendum. There are 16 reform articles in this book which crystallise the recommendations from the 18 NRC committees into actionable directives.
Q: What does fostering national serenity mean?
A: We wish to bring peace and unity back to the Nation. We truly believe today's lull of violence is a direct result of martial law imposed by the National Council for Peace and Order. What happens when the bell is rung for the next round of elections after the new constitution? Will we be back at each other's throats? Thais have been pitted against one another for the last 10 years and if we cannot come to an understanding, a compromise, we will undoubtedly be number 10 in Asean in short order. We need reconciliation.
Reconciliation can be achieved by internationally accepted, true and tried processes, well documented under the term "transitional justice", and the practical variations thereof. Reconciliation cannot be achieved by just agreeing to a win-win situation for the victors and sweeping all else, including victims, under the rug. The second chapter of the fourth book of the draft constitution is dedicated just to this reconciliation process. An independent National Reconciliation Committee will be established to promote peaceful reconciliation and return serenity to the citizens of the kingdom.
Indeed, this Reform Constitution is, of itself, a reconciliation tool for the past, the present, and the future.
- Citizens will no longer exercise their democratic authority once every four years for four minutes at the polling booths.
Citizens, and all who reside in the Kingdom, will have rights and liberties guaranteed pursuant to international norms.
Progressive rights have been ensured for all so that the poor, the needy, the disenfranchised will now have equal opportunity to achieve their potential. All citizens shall have equal access to the resources of the Nation without having to take to the streets to protest for those rights. The citizens are empowered to be active, participating, members of the political society that administers them and not just bystanders.
- Politics will be more transparent and accountable. The business of politics will now be to altruistically serve the people and not a shortcut to power, rich, and fame. Abuse of power will be met with citizen challenges and organisational scrutiny at every turn. The regulators themselves will be monitored just as much as those that they are regulating to ensure fairness and impartiality. Administration and legislation, including justice will be held to a higher standard. Justice will be fair, impartial, and swift.
- In creating a just society, the root causes of the conflict needs to be addressed and it has been done so by guaranteeing reforms - comprehensive, inclusive, and participative - ensured in their continuity by two bodies under the constitution with extraordinary powers. Disparity will make way for opportunity.
What will all this do? We hope that this constitution will bring about a paradigm shift. Citizens will not allow themselves to be treated as subjects anymore and will stand up for their rights. Politicians will find politics less lucrative than before and less able to recoup their vote-buying investments through corruption. The root causes of the nation's ills will be addressed by mandate of this constitution. In short, everything that any citizen ever felt the need to fight for has been granted and all anyone has to do is to own, embrace, and protect this constitution as if their life depended upon it, for it actually may.
Lt Gen Navin Damrigan is a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee and National Reform Council.