Bahamian political scientist pens simplified version of the Bahamian Constitution
Bahamian political scientist, Keisha Lynne Ellis, seeks to help every person in the country understand the Bahamian Constitution with her book, “The People’s Constitution: A Layman’s Interpretation of the Constitution of The Bahamas”.
Ellis, a political science lecturer at the University of The Bahamas, noticed that many of her students possessed no familiarity with the constitution. It was an alarming realization that prompted her to begin her two-year, page-by-page journey of transcribing the tome that is the foundation of human rights and government power into a more simplified reader-friendly version.
The result is a pocket-sized book that is an easy to read and understand version of the complete original constitution.
“Few citizens understand the Bahamian constitution,” said Ellis. “It is not taught in schools, and even most adults have never actually read it. Because it is written in legal terms, many people find it difficult or tedious to read. We cannot truly call ourselves a democracy if all of our citizens do not understand the foundation of our government. Most people believe that only politicians and lawyers have to know the constitution, but that is absolutely not true. As citizens we are all responsible for making sure that our rights are protected and that power is not abused.”
Ellis said the public discourse that sprang from both the 2002 and 2016 constitutional referenda made it clear that the constitution is not perfect, but because so few Bahamians have actually read it, it is difficult for the average person to weigh in on amendments that need to be made.
“This leaves the population in a position of subordination to those who have had the time and resources necessary to sit down and study the constitution. This is not how a democracy should function,” she said.
The boys at Programme S.U.R.E. were among the first students to have “The People’s Constitution” introduced in their classroom. Programme S.U.R.E., which is operated by the Ministry of Education, is an alternative school for at-risk children who have been removed from the mainstream school system. Social studies teacher Ean Maura invited Ellis to talk to his students about the importance of knowing the constitution. Maura thought it was important that his students learn the constitution.
“Informing the students of their rights goes a long way in providing alternatives to addressing their concerns and potentially arrest their emotional divorce from the community and the nation. The language used in ‘The People’s Constitution’ is much more digestible, which gives the words even more meaning and power and the constitution itself more relevance.”
Ellis would like to see “The People’s Constitution” used in more schools. As the date of the 2017 general election approaches, she urges everyone to arm themselves with as much information as possible so that they can make the best decision.
“The People’s Constitution: A Layman’s Interpretation of the Constitution of The Bahamas” is available at Logos Bookstore, Book World and Stationers, Chapter One Bookstore and Buy The Book. It retails for $10. Distribution to Family Islands is scheduled to begin soon.