June 2013 was a tumultuous time for the South Pacific. In the aftermath of the Milograd Coup, a thousand nations had been displaced, and while patriotic sentiment was high, so was an awareness that the government would need to spend much effort reviewing its policies on inclusiveness. There was fierce criticism from supporters of Milograd, who remained in the region, while many newcomers who supported the Coalition argued that there would be few drawbacks, and instead great benefit in increasing the democratic credentials of the government.
Delegate Southern Bellz, who was elected to a second term in a special election, vowed to start a discussion on a bill of rights for residents, to complement the one that already existed for citizens. He started that discussion shortly after, proposing a set of four basic rights for residents: a right to apply for citizenship, a right to free speech, a right to a government audience and a right to receive a cause for ejection. These rights were broadly similar to those guaranteed to citizens at the time, though less extensive in scope.
There were varied proposals for extended rights, led by citizens such as Comrade Troy and Tsrill, regarding the right to vote in elections and the guarantees of due process. In the end, however, the drafting bill was the one submitted by the author of this article, which was based on an earlier draft that had been unsuccessfully submitted before the Assembly the prior month. This draft sought to incorporate the rights of both residents and citizens in a single document, clarifying that, unless otherwise noted, every single right should be afforded to every member of the region, regardless of their citizenship status. Following a prolonged debate, the bill was motioned to a vote, and it passed by a 14-4 vote. It was certified, with little fanfare, by Sandaoguo on 04 September 2013.
It is easy to learn the history, but why was this particular piece of legislation important, and what can we learn from it?
It was a groundbreaking expansion of citizen and resident rights. Prior to its reform, the Bill of Rights was shorter and less detailed, and applied only to citizens. This left residents, who comprised the overwhelming majority of the region, utterly unprotected, as far as the law was concerned. There were obviously legal and moral considerations, not to mention the South Pacific had a long tradition of respect and openness, so the actual risk of power abuse was incredibly low. This was, however, an important talking point for Milograd, who argued that citizens were a small minority that hoarded rights for itself.
It was also a pivotal moment for newcomers, who began taking a more prominent role in the affairs of the region, while collaborating with more veteran members. Passing the 2013 Bill of Rights involved contributions by Southern Bellz, Hileville, Rebeltopia, Belschaft, Kringalia, Sandaoguo and Awesomiasa, among many others. All these names may sound old to the average member, but at that time, the last three were very new indeed, having joined mere months before. This collaboration worked because there was a common goal, without second intentions or major disagreements. There was a consensus that rights should be expanded, and all discussion focused on the best, most responsible and safest way to implement that.
It is also noteworthy how this expansion of rights, necessary and proper by all reasonable standards, was conducted in an entirely lawful and responsible way. This presented a stark contrast with the brutal way in which Milograd enforced his coup. He ejected hundreds of nations, denied the sovereignty of the Coalition, attempted to install his own government, all in the name of the Minnows. But the Minnows had not been consulted, they never held a vote, and they certainly had no asked for such a drastic upset in the constitutional order. Days before the citizenry had approved vast changes to the laws of the region, and elected Milograd as their delegate under the auspices of said laws. When the Assembly debated and passed the 2013 Bill of Rights, it did so in a calm manner, gathering input from various citizens, carefully considering their views and allowing them to cast votes on the final draft. This was proof that meaningful change was possible under a democratic system.
There are a few lessons that we can learn from this, but I could like to focus only on two: our historical worth, and the strength of our institutions.
If there is anything to be learned from this episode, it is that ours is a region deeply embedded in a tradition of inclusiveness and democratic participation. Our north is always the greater inclusion of all members, even those who willingly choose not to participate in our active community. We established the oldest democratic government in the Game Created Regions because it was the right thing to do. We fought Devonitians and Milograd because they endangered our sovereignty and self-determination. We established a Local Council because the goal was to grant our members a greater and more direct say in their local affairs. We passed the 2013 Bill of Rights because rights are not due only to a select few, but to all those who call this region a home, and that extended to those residents who had decided that citizenship was not for them.
A second and very valuable lesson is that our institutions work, but only if we let them. Those who followed Milograd had lost faith in the democratic credentials of the Coalition, but even as the coup began, those credentials were very strong. Milograd had been elected delegate in the aftermath of the 2013 Great Council, which had gathered various members to the effect of debating serious reforms to the laws and government of the region. Milograd himself had participated in these debates. Once the coup was finished, the democratic order was restored, the arbitrary ejections stopped, the Assembly continued conducting its business, its membership open to all, and an influx of new members breathed new life into the region, leading to the passage of the 2013 Bill of Rights, the inclusion of Deputy Ministers as members of the Cabinet, and eventually the election of newcomers to the Cabinet.
It is vital for us to remember, in this special date, that the South Pacific has not endured the test of time, maintained a stable government for fourteen years, out of dumb luck. Its openness, its ability to incorporate new ideas, include new members, show itself able to adapt to the changing times, have allowed it to gain democratic legitimacy, and maintain the trust of its members. It is, however, incumbent upon us to deserve that trust. Our government can be messy, slow, even toxic at times, but that is because the people in it, without exception, can be messy, slow and toxic, not because of any failings in our democratic system.
As we embark on a new age for the region, with a rising new generation of leaders, increased and vibrant debate in the Assembly, and sustained activity across the board, let us remember that these accomplishments are not to be taken for granted, but rather come as the result of years of struggle and relentless efforts by past generations, all conducted under a democratic system that has never failed the region, nor its community. It is our responsibility to trust in that system, to commit to its endurance, and to ensure that it will not go gentle into that good night.