Are we the Co-operative Republic or the Republic of Guyana?

June 12, 2011 | By | Filed Under Letters 

In a copy of the constitution posted on the website of the Parliament of Guyana, it is stated in Article 1 that the country be known as the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. Assuming this is indeed the real constitution, then we have run into a problem.
During the constitution reform process in 1999, one of the discussion points was that to rename the country from the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to the Republic of Guyana.
The multi-stakeholder Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) recommended that the name of the country be changed, but did not evidently propose a new name. That was left to the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Constitution Reform, which was responsible for putting flesh to the CRC recommendations.
It proposed on page 5 of its report of August 2000 that the words “Guyana is a indivisible, secular, democratic sovereign state in the course to transition from capitalism to socialism and shall be known as the Co-operative Republic of Guyana” in the 1980 constitution be replaced by “Guyana is an indivisible, secular, democratic and sovereign state and shall be known as the Republic of Guyana.”
Eventually, this shortened version was approved by the Special Select Committee on the Report of the CRC and adopted by the National Assembly. There the matter should have rested.
Article 1 of the 2001 constitution, however, retains the exact old wording of the 1980 version. One suspects this may have been due to an oversight somewhere in the drafting process.
The situation has produced much confusion and inconsistency in how we officially refer to the country. Even the government is unsure. So, while, for example, the website of the Office of the President consistently refers to the country as the Republic of Guyana, that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes references to the Cooperative Republic. The Parliamentary website is far bolder in its embrace of the old name. Its online document is titled the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Likewise, the words “transition from capitalism to socialism” in Article 1 clearly should not be there, as all mention of socialism and socialist has been shamelessly rooted out elsewhere in the 2001 constitution.
Correcting the problem should not be difficult.
Sherwood Lowe

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