I AM deeply pleased to hear from Prime Minister Ky that the Directorate has agreed to the new Constitution just adopted by the Constituent Assembly of the Republic of Vietnam.
The Constitution marks the most important step in Vietnam's progress toward representative government. It is the fruit of 6 months of labor by delegates whose very elections demonstrated the ability of the people of South Vietnam to move forward toward democracy in the midst of war, and despite the savage opposition of the Vietcong.
Many of the provisions of the Constitution were actively debated during 6 months of consideration by the Assembly. But when agreement was finally reached, the Constitution was approved by the unanimous vote of the Assembly.
Like the U.S. Constitution, the Vietnamese Constitution has been written by the democratically chosen representatives of the people. And like the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia two centuries ago, the Assembly in Saigon included many men in their late twenties or early thirties.
The Constitution secures freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It guarantees civil rights and due process of law, and provides for free political expression by the press, political parties, and trade unions, as well as by individuals.
It establishes an executive branch and endows it with wide powers, but subjects it, at the same time, to strong measures of control by the legislature. The legislature will enjoy wide authority, perhaps wider than that of the U.S. Congress.
Three times in less than = years South Vietnam has moved closer toward establishing a government fully responsive to the people. The first of these steps was the provincial elections held in May 1965; the second step was the election, last September 11, of the members of the Constituent Assembly; now a democratic Constitution has been adopted.
There will be other steps on the road to more representative government in Vietnam during the coming months. A new round of village and hamlet elections will begin in April, when over 900 village councils will be elected. In May and June nearly 5,000 hamlet chiefs will be chosen. Then the election of a President and the Senate provided for in the new Constitution, are planned for late summer. Finally, the election of the House of Representatives will come within a month after the election of a President.
All those who have thoughtfully studied the modern history of Vietnam know that military power alone cannot secure the peace and insure the progress of that nation--nor of any other. Free political institutions are indispensable to the success of South Vietnam's long struggle against terror--and those who support her in that struggle rejoice in the success of this past week.