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19 Jun
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What Do We Need To Be Reminded Of?

“The great American word is freedom, and in particular freedom of thought, speech and assembly.” Robert M. Hutchins

All freedoms are a single freedom- one and indivisible, although people consider one freedom as more important than the others. The above quote from Robert Hutchins is the sole spirit of the First Amendment to the American constitution. This First Amendment lumps together the freedom of religion, of speech and the press, of assembly, and of petition. Many people consider the freedom of speech as the most important strand. “It includes not just the words that come out of a person’s mouth but the freedom to think the thoughts behind the words, and the freedom to put them down on paper or to express them in some other way”. This is why the Americans put a higher value on their Constitution and all of its Amendments – because it is the document that guarantees the respect of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

One needs to keep this kind of document “where children do not reach”. Nothing should contravene the constitution and if it does, it will be of no effect in the cases of most constitutions, if not all. If, in the course of time, something new and something unforeseeable and fundamental to the well being and good of the people happened, any constitution goes through amendment. “The Constitution was intended to ‘keep step with the march of the age’ and should not hamper social or economic experimentation”. This is why the US constitution went through more than 25 amendments. However, if any other law, customary practice or decision of an organ of state or public official contravenes the constitution without keeping the proper procedure of constitutional amendment, it implies gross unconstitutionality.

We are not new for unconstitutional legislation, albeit multitude of reasons and justifications are given to legitimize them. But however, we are new to see the highest government officials of the country contravene the constitution blatantly. Having three Deputy Prime Ministers while the constitution clearly provides one Prime Minister and one Deputy Prime Minister is not a good sign of constitutionality. This is bad, even if we take out the precedential effect of it. This is bad even for our country. Something is wrong when the organ who is bestowed with the duty to ensure the observance of the constitution and at the same time the duty to obey it disregards his duty.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), a.k.a “The Great Dissenter” was a very devoted champion of the freedom of speech and of expression in the American history. This man felt strongly that Americans needed to be reminded of the importance of the First Amendment and he once said, “We have grown so accustomed to the enjoyments of these rights that we forget they had to be fought for and may have to be fought for again.

 

If the people who enjoyed the great deal of their fundamental human rights felt that these rights may have to be fought for, what would we expect from the people who hardly seen those rights of them respected? What do we need to be reminded of? We need to be reminded that we are humans, and our rights. We should accept nothing less. Moreover, we need to be reminded of to be watchdogs of our own rights.

Gemechu Merera Fana

The blogger graduated from Mekelle University and got his LLB in 2009. He is an MSW candidate at Addis Ababa University and currently he is working at Ministry of Justice as Public Prosecutor and Drafts person.