The days when the Preamble of a Constitution could be ignored or brushed aside are over. The attitude it seems has prevailed in places from time to time.
The present Preamble of the Guyana Constitution deserves to be read again and again. It was enacted at a time when a Constitutional Reform Commission representative of all parties, if not of all the people, sat and struggled with the excess powers of the constitution as it was then.
They did not remove every excessive power. My information is that they discussed and then decided by consensus. If the two major parliamentary parties did not agree, no change could be made. Not all the parties agreed with what their delegates achieved. Outside of the Preamble the WPA’s proposal on marginalization was heavily watered down.
My argument recently after the PNCR’s Press Statement on the Independence anniversary disturbed Mr. Sultan Mohamed into a fit of vomiting. Let us say I did not make myself clear. He missed my most important statement on federation.
The Preamble would not be there if it had no meaning. Why would adults get around the table and write words to introduce a Constitution if they were only joking. Preambles vary. I am going cautiously, because of the widespread lack of interest in the subject.
When I returned from Guyana, after my brother’s funeral, I circulated the Preamble of our Constitution to about 30 persons. I received one response asking whether it was official. What is well known about me is that I am “crazy”. The general response seemed to be, “What is he talking about?”
To me, the 2011 election results were a gift to the people of Guyana from the people of Guyana. All races joined in those results. They did not plan it. Perhaps they collectively wished a settlement. It will be a crime to undo that result. It seemed to me like the Voice of History saying, “Get together and work it out.”
The Constitution has no direct answer to those results. It has provisions that may be used for negotiating a patriotic settlement. I named one of them outside of the Preamble. The President could have discussed the conditions, if any, under which the bare-majority opposition would offer ministers for the government. There is one I did not name. In the Constitutional articles, the Leader of the Opposition is listed under the Executive. The Constitutional lawyers can help us here. I never knew why.
This is where the Preamble comes in. And some Preambles are entrenched like fundamental rights. Ours is not, but it can be helpful.
Strangely, what drove me to the Preamble is not a government of national unity. I had been observing reports of the demonstrations of the youth, free of attacks on their political opposites, and I was excited and refreshed. The disturbing voices from all sides began to call on the youth to get off the streets. Voices wanted them to shut up!
The Preamble has something to say directly on that in the name of the people. I’ll risk quoting it even though I know what the chorus will be – “Partition.”
The Preamble says:
(We) “Acknowledge the aspirations of our young people who in their own words, have declared that the future of Guyana belongs to its young people, who aspire to live in a safe society which respects their dignity, protects their rights, recognises their potential, listens to their voices, provides opportunities, ensures a healthy environment and encourages people of all races to live in harmony and peace, and affirm that their declaration will be binding on our institutions and be a party of the context of our basic law. ”
Yes. All of that is in the Preamble. Enjoy!
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