For the second time in two weeks, incumbent President David Granger has returned, if tangentially, to the rhetoric on shared governance and constitutional reform, central pillars of his presidential campaigns of 2011 and 2015.
In an exclusive interview on Monday with Enrico Woolford, Chairman of the Board of the Directors of state broadcaster, National Communications Network Television, the President lamented the state of politics in Guyana
“The politics process is what it is,” Granger said “Maybe sometime in the future, there could be a reexamination of the process and maybe a modification of the process if it is found to be inadequate…I don’t want to go too much into that, it is a subject for constitutional reform.”
This reference to changing the political infrastructure of a country, which he has served as Executive President for over the past five years follows his broaching the topic during a May 18 radio interview with Coalition supporter Mark Benschop. In that interview, Granger cited former Education Minister and WPA executive Dr. Roopnaraine pointing out that the winner-take-all system could not continue.
“The formula, as has been laid out by my colleague Rupert Roopnaraine,” Granger told Benschop, “people who win 51 per cent of the vote must not behave as if they won 100 per cent of the vote and people who only got 49 per cent of the vote must not be treated as if they got no per cent of the votes and, I live by that. I would like to see an inclusionary form of government.”
The two interviews would represent the first time Granger has significantly addressed the issue of power sharing, and constitutional reform towards that end, in the past five years. He has stayed away from the question of constitutional reform, leaving portfolio responsibility for it to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.
During the 2020 election campaign, the only reference Granger had made towards the issue of constitutional reform was at D’Urban Park rally on January 4 when he promised the mammoth crowd of coalition supporters that in his second term, he would change the Constitution to rid it of the “ambiguities” that saw his government falling in a no confidence motion of December 2018.
“We are going to reform the constitution,” Granger said, “so that the nonsense they tried with us over the last twelve months does not happen again.”
Outside of this, the issue of constitutional reform had received passing attention in his presidential addresses to the nation in the same period, with his 2020 New Year’s message promise of “constitutional reform, pursued vigorously, with wider popular consultation, and with greater emphasis placed on broader political inclusion, protecting human rights and preventing constitutional gridlock” being whittled down to “constitutional reform, by safeguarding human rights, promoting inclusionary democracy and emphasising broader political consultation” in his Republic Anniversary address in February.
The coalition’s ‘Decade of Development’ plan was even scarcer in detail, with no mention of shared governance, and just three lines on constitutional reform:
“ * Continue the work of the Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission;
* Continue the allocation of funding for country-wide, community consultations; and
* Commit to contributing to a Constitution which reflects the will of the wider society, country-wide.”
The difficulty with that plan however was that the Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission (CRCC) has never been established, so its work could not be continued because it had not in fact started.
The CRCC which work was promised to “continue” in the ‘Decade of Development’ reached only as far as the drafting of the bill necessary to establish it as a legal mechanism. Bill No.9 of 2017 was intended, “to establish a Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission to assist the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform in its work by conducting public consultations with and receiving submissions from the people of Guyana for the Committee, to provide for its membership, its terms of reference and for other connected purposes.”
The bill itself was the end result of an almost two-year process that started with the establishment of a Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform (SCCR), headed by former AFC Executive, Nigel Hughes in late 2015, and commissioned by Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo. The report, handed over to Nagamootoo in April of 2016 was represented at the time as the first step in the fulfillment of the Coalition’s campaign promise on constitutional reform.
In its 2015 manifesto, the Coalition had made the clear commitment:
“APNU+AFC recognizes that the Constitution, in its current form, does not serve the best interest of Guyana or its people. Within three months of taking up office, APNU+AFC will appoint a Commission to amend the Constitution with the full participation of the people. The new Constitution will put the necessary checks and balances in place to consolidate our ethos of liberal democracy. Freedom of speech, reduction of the power of the President and the Bill of Rights will be enshrined in the document.”
The CRCC Bill, drafted a full year after the handing over of the SCCR report, was however sent to a parliamentary select committee in mid-2017 and therefore never passed, hence the Commission it was meant to establish never came into existence.
The question of the level of commitment to constitutional reform by the two major political players has been a major one over the past two decades. As part of the limited constitutional reforms of 2001, a bipartisan parliamentary mechanism called the Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform was established under Article 119A of the Constitution.
As early as 2004 however, former US President Jimmy Carter, after a visit to Guyana in which he had engaged then President Bharrat Jagdeo and then Leader of the Opposition, the PNCR’s Robert Corbin, released a report in which he recommended that the Standing Committee, “should be reactivated to implement proposals for substantive governance and election system reforms, drawing heavily on civilian participation.”
No substantial activity however seems to have been recorded as coming out of the Standing Committee between 2001 and 2015, a period covering three parliaments. For the 11th Parliament (2015-2019), the committee comprised of Basil Williams (Chair), Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Raphael Trotman, Khemraj Ramjattan, and Nicolette Henry for the Coalition; and Priya Manickchand, Anil Nandlall, Dr. Frank Anthony, and Adrian Anamyah for the opposition. In the three years leading up to the No Confidence Vote of 2018, that committee met no more than five times.
The United Nations Development Programme concluded in a 2018 report on the possibility of constitutional reform:
“…the governing coalition and PPP/C may both go along with the constitutional reform process, but in the end fail to adopt the most needed amendments. As previously stated, both parties believe they stand to win the 2020 election. And both parties have historically enjoyed (i.e., failed to reform) the excessive executive powers under the 1980 Constitution…. The risk is that both parties might pay lip service to constitutional reform and adopt some amendments on the margins, but in the end, fail to pass any of the most needed amendments, thereby maintaining the status quo.”
One constitutional expert, speaking to Kaieteur News on condition of anonymity, has posited that the current constitution provides opportunities for a good faith commitment on power sharing moving forward, with an elected President having the powers under Articles 101-103 of the Constitution to reach across the aisle for political appointments.
“We have an example of it being done before,” the expert told Kaieteur News in an invited comment yesterday, “after the 2001 elections, when a newly elected [President Bharrat] Jagdeo invited The United Force (TUF) presidential candidate, Manzoor Nadir, who had won a single seat in that year’s elections, to occupy a ministerial post in the PPP government.”
This newspaper independently confirmed that despite sitting in Parliament occupying the sole TUF seat from 2001 to 2006, Nadir served as Jagdeo’s Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce. Nadir ran once more as TUF presidential candidate in 2006, winning one seat again and was returned as Minister of Labour in Jagdeo’s final term in office, 2006 to 2011.
The expert opined that both Presidents Granger and Donald Ramotar missed an opportunity to use the existing constitutional provisions to bridge the political divide, adding that it was not inconceivable under Article 101(1) of the Constitution to have a PPP president-elect appointing a Coalition Prime Minister and vice versa.
In his interview with Woolford, Granger stated that he had initially invited the PPP to shared governance talks in 2015 and would do so again in a second term. He recalled that the talks had fallen apart because of whom he had selected to represent him, but that he didn’t want to get into rehashing the past.
The PPP for its own part says that it has noted the new calls for shared governance and constitutional reform being made by the Coalition members and some prominent supporters, but claimed that those calls were only coming after the elections. Two weeks ago, when asked about the possibility of shared governance, the party’s Presidential Candidate, Dr. Irfaan Ali had said that he was interested in more inclusive governance but would not commit to executive-level power sharing. His position, he said, was that focus should be on concluding the recount and declaring a winner, a stance his Prime Ministerial candidate, Mark Phillips echoed yesterday when addressing the media.
Jul 15, 2020It is no surprise that 18-year-old Samuel Woodroffe has a deep passion for hockey after being grown into the sport with his father Damon and sisters, Dacia and Trisha all having represented the...
Jul 15, 2020
Jul 15, 2020
Jul 14, 2020
Jul 13, 2020
Jul 13, 2020
By Sir Ronald Sanders Governments around the world, including in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, have emerged as... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]