The People’s Republic: Constitutional basis

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

AT this stage we would like to emphasize that there is a sharp distinction between CONSTITUTION and GOVERNMENT, between STATE and GOVERNMENT, and between STATE and NATION. We are doing this because, in common parlance, CONSTITUTION and STATE are respectively regarded as synonymous with GOVERNMENT and NATION. In a strict scientific sense, they are not.

Havingjust given the definition of STATE, we will, for ease of comparison, give that of NATION, before we deal with CONSTITUTION and GOVERNMENT. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Salmond, and Keeton, respectively, NATION is defined as follows:

(I) A distinct race or people, characterized by common descent, language, or history, usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a definite territory.

(2) A group of persons who feel that they are distinct from others on grounds of culture, language, and sometimes ancestry.

(3) A community of persons linked either by their historical development, common speech, or common social customs, or several of these criteria, in such a way that such persons would still tend to cohere even if separated under different governments.

From the definitions of STATE and NATION which we have given, four important points emerge.

FIRST: A state may consist of a number of nations; as in the U.S.S.R., India, Nigeria, and Switzerland.

SECOND: A nation may be divided into a number of states; as in Ancient Greece, and as is the case with the Ewe-speaking people in Ghana and Togo, the Kurd-speaking people in U.S.S.R., Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, the Greek-speaking people in modern Greece and Cyprus, and the German-speaking people in Western Germany and Eastern Germany.

THIRD: A nation may be co-extensive with a state; as in Portugal and Italy.

FOURTH: While a nation need not have political ends in order to maintain its cohesion, unity, and corporate existence, a state must. In other words, whilst it is imperative that the elements or objectives for the cohesion and continued corporate existence of a state must be consciously organized and continuously sustained by the members of the state, all that a nation needs for the preservation of its cohesion and corporate continuance are already ingrained at birth, as unconscious powerful tendencies, in the members ofthe national group, and nurtured by many self-sustaining cultural ties and sentiments.

We would like to observe in passing that in a strict scientific sense, the name United Nations Organization is not at all apt because it is STATES not NATIONS as such that are members of the world organization.

Whenever the word CONSTITUTION is mentioned, we quickly conjure up in our minds the picture of a special legal document which contains various provisions relating to:

(1) the organs of government, together with their characteristics and the mode of establishing them; (2) the powers and functions of such organs, their relationship inter se, and with the public at large; and (3) the enforceable rights and duties of the citizen.

Indeed, Wade and Phillips say that, “By a constitution is normally meant a document having a special legal sanctity which sets out the framework and the principal functions of the organs of government of a State and declares the principles governing the operation of those organs.”

But a constitution need not be, and has not always been, in writing. Primitive and illiterate societies have no written constitution or laws; nor did most countries of Africa before the advent of European rule. Even today, the British constitution is only partly written; the same applies to the constitution of New Zealand.

What then is a constitution? According to the authors of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, CONSTITUTION is defined as:

The system or body of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, or body politic is constituted or governed.

On the other hand GOVERNMENT has been defined as:

The body of persons charged with the duty of governing a state. A cursory comparison between the meanings of CONSTITUTION, STATE, and GOVERNMENT makes the distinction between them clear and indubitable. Indeed the distinction is so sharp that it is erroneous, in serious discussions to speak of FEDERAL or UNITARY GOVERNMENT, or to treat STATE and GOVERNMENT as synonymous.

We have noted, earlier on, that a State must have (I) a constitution, (2) a Government, and (3) objectives.

It is our considered view that in order that the liberty of the citizen may be guaranteed, and in order that he may live a full and happy life and be at peace with his fellow citizens, the state must have a suitable constitution, stable government, and continually strive to fulfil its objectives. It is easy to appreciate that if the constitution is unsuitable, the government is unstable, or the objectives are only being fulfilled in the breach, the state concerned will be afflicted with social distress involving widespread disorder. And whereever there is disorder, the liberty and welfare of the citizen will suffer either death, violation, or grave uncertainty. We will, therefore, consider what type of constitution is suitable for any given state, what objectives are appropriate to it, and what form of government is most conducive to stability and to the ends for which the state is established.

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

 

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