Apr 17, 2017 News
“The struggle for constitutional reform as a means to attain a political solution to Guyana’s sharp ethno-political divisions remains a burning necessity, which is broadly supported by the Guyanese people. It is this yearning that keeps alive the periodic courtship for political unity between the main political parties.”
This perspective was expressed by Former Speaker of the National Assembly and political commentator, Ralph Ramkarran. In his recent remarks on the issue, Ramkarran noted that importance of constitutional reform in striking a political balance in the nation.
He emphasized that it is even more important now that Guyana is coming into oil wealth.
The new economic venture, the Former Speaker says, will increase challenges to transparency and good governance.
“An agreed, political structure that allows for participation of both parties in governance, while maintaining political competition and their separate identities, will create political legitimacy, end discrimination, reduce corruption, introduce more transparency, facilitate an agreed economic policy, establish equitable distribution of economic resources, tackle disadvantages or perceived disadvantages of groups, protect the environment and provide for a green economy.”
Ramkarran explained further that “in the Cummingsburg Accord, APNU and the AFC are committed to the establishment of a Constitution Reform Committee with a mandate to complete consultations, draft amendments and present same to the National Assembly for approval within nine months.
“In attempting to fulfill its mandate, the Government appointed the Hughes’ Committee to examine the process for constitutional reform. It reported about a year ago. The report is still before the Cabinet and the process appears to have been stalled.
This has led to speculation that the Government has lost interest in constitutional reform, even though it allocated $80 million to constitution reform and appointed Prime Minister Nagamottoo to lead the process.”
Ramkarran said a President elected by a majority of electors, separate elections for the presidency and national assembly, executive powers should be shared between the President, Prime Minister and the Cabinet and Cabinet should comprise members of the parties which have achieved at least 15 percent of the vote at the national elections.
If the speculation is not justified, the Government can demonstrate its bona fides by tabling a motion in the National Assembly seeking support for its Manifesto proposals and the Hughes Report. I believe that such a move will meet with the overwhelming support of the Guyanese people.
Last month the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) expert team is in Guyana to explore how constitutional reform could be realised.
The team met with Prime Minister and First Vice President, Moses Nagamootoo, and Coordinator of Governance, Tamara Khan.
The United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (UNDPA) outlined the scope of the constitutional reform needs assessment mission.
Among the things, the team assessed was the political environment in Guyana and the legal and institutional framework governing the constitutional reform process.
They reviewed past reform processes and evaluated the interest, capacity and roles of the various civil and political stakeholders in engaging in the constitutional reform process.
They also assessed the potential role of UNDP-UNDPA in assisting this process and resources required.
The team had requested meetings with the Leader of the Opposition and the People’s Progressive Party, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the National Toshaos Council Chairman, trade unions, the rights commissions, Private Sector Commission, religious bodies, the Guyana Bar Association, international partners and several other civil society bodies,” OPM said.
During consideration of the 2016 budget, the Prime Minister had disclosed that the process of constitutional reform must forge ahead in 2017 and that various partners including UNDP and UNICEF have assured assistance.
As a preparatory step, a Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform (SCCR) headed by prominent attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes was set up on September 1, 2015.
“The Committee’s report was submitted to the Prime Minister on 30th April 2016 and subsequently laid before Cabinet for studied discussions. A Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission Bill was drafted and is now the subject of further Cabinet deliberations,” OPM disclosed.
Subsequently, the Carter Centre came on board as a partner in the constitutional reform process.
“Prime Minister Nagamootoo started talks, on programme support in general, and constitutional reform in particular with the UNDP as far back as July 23, 2015, as noted in the press, when he met with UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America, Jessica Faieta, and then UNDP Resident Representative Khadija Musa.”
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