Everyone should be concerned about what is in the interest of the nation because, what is in the national interest is in our interest. Not every thing that is in the national interest will be to the advantage of every individual, personal or corporate, because interests sometimes conflict.

We live in a democracy, where the rights of the individual may be upheld, if considered more worthy than the interests of the nation. This sounds like a contradiction to me.

I think that the interests of the nation take precedence over any other interest and, over any right, individual or collective, human or contractual. In the same way that the common good supercedes every other good. In fact, I believe that the common good and the national interest are synonymous.

When the people elect a government to represent them and, to act on their behalf, it is a form of trust and, if the government fails to act in the best interest of the nation, it is a negation of trust. But, if any member of the government, acting in the name of the people, deliberately pursues a policy which does harm to the nation he has sworn to serve, it is a betrayal of trust. It is a betrayal of trust; but, can such an act be validated by any law?

To answer this question, I think we have to consider the nature of law itself. Laws are made, as decreed in the Constitution, for peace, order and good government. The Constitution does not say, for whom and to what purpose, for there is no need. It is implicit that laws are made for the good of the people. So. Can any law made for the good of the people allow anyone, entrusted to serve the people, to act against their best interests? I think not.

We have been discussing what may not be done by those invested by the people with sovereign power to serve their best interests. Now, let us turn to the positive: what the people expect their representatives to do in the national interest and, what if they do not do, is a negation of trust.

The first duty of government is to protect its citizens from harm. It does this by declaring harmful acts done to a citizen to be offenses punishable by law courts, according to the principle “let the punishment fit the crime.” The more heinous the crime, the more severe the punishment. So that, the extent of the protection afforded to the citizen depends upon the degree that the punishment deters would-be offenders. What if the punishment fails to deter? Then, it would become necessary to increase its severity. What if the severity cannot be increased? Then, the punishment would have to be the ultimate.

Where the people of Belize are concerned, it would be in the national interest if our representatives institute whatever measures are necessary to ensure that the life of each citizen be as highly valued by every other citizen as if it were his own.

The second duty of our elected representatives is to ensure that all our citizens are capable of discharging their legal and social obligations, which they will be able to do, only if they are literate. Therefore, everyone should be able to read, by the time they reach their majority. An illiterate person cannot function as a citizen. He cannot enter into a contractual agreement. He cannot even read traffic signs. How can he vote in an election to choose representatives to govern the nation? To be able to write his name and put an “X” in the place on a ballot paper a politician asks him to, is not being literate. Government has the obligation to provide teaching facilities but, the onus should be on the individual to become literate in order to exercise the franchise.

Think of this. Our nation is about 80% literate, which means that 20% of our electorate is illiterate. 20% of our electorate is unable to exercise the franchise. This is unacceptable. It is an indictment against the leaders of our society. It is in our national interest that we are 100% literate. That is not such a high objective.

It is in our national interest that there is peace and order in our society. Government makes laws to this purpose, but that is only the beginning. We can’t have Peace and Order without discipline. The editor of this newspaper made this statement in its end of the year issue. “We can’t discipline our people.” This is a fair statement, that indiscipline is rife in our society. It can be inferred that we are incapable of changing the status quo. It can be inferred that if we could, we would have. I disagree with the statement because, it also implies that the government does not have the power to act in the national interest, with positive effect, in this particular regard. But they do have the power. We gave it to them in 2008. So. If indiscipline continues to be rife in our society, it is because the government has failed to take effective action, which is a negation of trust.

Amandala