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SVG Community College lecturer has been swiping at Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Commission, Parnel Campbell, QC.
SVG Community College lecturer has been swiping at Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Commission, Parnel Campbell, QC.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent: – The letter-writer who said he was “convinced” that chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee Parnel Campbell “thinks that our people are stupid” has revealed his “special expertise … in constitutional interpretation”.

Shefflorn Ballantyne in a document sent to I Witness-News quoted the Bible in saying that his “secret” and “superior qualifications” came from his obedience to God’s law, citing Psalm 119:100.

“Obedience to God’s law makes us understand more about issues than the ancients,” Ballantyne said.

He added: “So, Mr. Campbell, ‘Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogance come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.’”

The SVG Community College accountancy lecturer wrote a letter in The News newspaper of July 31, saying that “no reasonable man” would conclude, as Campbell did, that Section 38 of the 1979 Constitution do not permit citizens to vote on individual sections of the proposed Constitution.

Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee, Parnel R. Campbell, Q.C. (File photo)
Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee, Parnel R. Campbell, Q.C. (File photo)

Campbell, a former member of parliament and former attorney general, responded to Ballantyne’s letter during his “The Law and You” programme on SVGTV two weeks later.

He questioned Ballantyne’s “special expertise … in constitutional interpretation”, saying, “Perhaps he has secret legal qualifications of which I am unaware.”

Ballantyne in his latest piece said that Campbell was “out of [his] place” and that his “arrogance was of such that it should not be allowed to go un-rebuked”.

“Our country’s future cannot be secure with men like P.R. Campbell at its helm. To think that he is heading our Constitutional Reform process and yet have the views he does about the people is serious cause for concerns,” Ballantyne said.

He said that while Campbell’s response took half of his 30-minute program, the Queen’s Counsel lawyer did not respond to the issue Ballantyne had raised in the initial letter.

“As to the issue of whether I am correct or incorrect according to section 38 (5) of our 1979 Constitution, he had nothing to say. He thinks we should just take what he says as truth. ‘…believe me.’ he said, ‘I know what I am speaking about’.”

“Let me be clear. The issue is whether it is possible under the current Constitution to vote in a referendum, answering yes or no to each amendment made to the Constitution,” Ballantyne wrote.

He said the implications of Campbell’s comments were as follows:

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  1. Only qualified persons with a degree in law can examine sections of the Constitution and give comments with some level of authority on radio or in the newspapers.
  2. Only persons who have degree in law (constitutional law in particular) can disagree with Parnel R. Campbell on his interpretation of the Constitution.
  3. No ordinary person (without a law degree) can say that Parnel R. Campbell is wrong in his interpretation of a clause he used before while a member of Parliament
  4. No ordinary person can say that he believes Parnell R. Campbell knows better and should stop misinterpreting the Constitution for ordinary Vincentians.
  5. All ordinary persons should take Campbell’s word as the gospel truth at all times when it comes to constitutional matters.

Ballantyne said that “in his arrogance” the CRC head had disqualified almost his entire Commission, including his deputy, Noel Jackson, who does not hold a degree in law.

“He believed all along that only an elite few can understand and interpret the constitution on their own.

“Still, he asked us, the great majority of Vincentians, who [Prime Minister Dr.] Ralph Gonsalves thinks are ‘uninitiated in the law’, to get a copy of the current Constitution and study it.

“Then they bring out this thick document (with little explanations) six years later and tell us to study that too, on our own, knowing fully well that they really never meant for us to understand and interpret it without their ‘help,” Ballantyne wrote.

Ballantyne said that Campbell had “declared everyone without a degree in law and constitutional law unqualified to challenge him”.

He responded to Campbell’s comment that Campbell knew more about constitutional law than Ballantyne “could know”, saying that Campbell’s statement meant:

  1. That Parnel R. Campbell knows what I currently know on constitutional amendments.
  2. That Parnel R. Campbell knows exactly what I will know for the rest of my life (I am in my mid 20s, he is over 50)
  3. That Parnel R. Campbell knows exactly what he will learn in the remainder of his life.
  4. That he will always remain SUPERIOR to me for the rest of our lives.
  5. Such is only possible if Parnel R. Campbell is an all-knowing and powerful GOD to make sure I never know as much as he does!
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