Constitution restricts diaspora from elective office

Dear Editor,

With reference to diaspora engagement, it is noted that the current so-called Burnham Constitution almost completely excludes the diaspora from political participation. There are restrictions on members of the diaspora running for office and being MPs, etc. This makes it all the more necessary for the diaspora to push ahead for constitutional reform and, more importantly, for inclusion of members of the diaspora in the Constitutional Reform Commission. This will be the only way for the diaspora to be included in the political development of our country. In the 2001 Constitutional amendment, both the PNC and PPP passed that amendment to restrict Guyanese in the diaspora from seeking elective office. It was not accidental that the two parties wrote and approved the amendment without even consulting the diaspora. The Government talks engagement, but doesn’t walk the talk. The Government calls on the diaspora to invest, but puts roadblocks along the way to discourage members of the diaspora from investing. The Government runs circles around members of the diaspora when they come to invest in the country. Deep down, by their attitude and the insult heaped on the diaspora, the Government could not care less about the diaspora. When in opposition, the party seeks diaspora contributions and engagement. But when in Government, it has no role for the diaspora. Both parties are guilty of that sin. The parties simply don’t want us in the diaspora to be politically involved in Guyana. They sought our role and involvement to liberalise the economy and return the country to democratic rule. Without the diaspora involvement, the country would not have experienced democratic change in 1992 or 2015. But once democracy was restored in 1992, the two dominant parties shut out the diaspora from political involvement.

It will be recalled that, in the 2006 election campaign, the AFC promised to appoint two of its MPs from the diaspora, but none was given seats. The promise was repeated in 2011, and yet again the AFC failed to honour the promise. In 2015, APNU +AFC promised three parliamentary seats and diplomatic postings to the diaspora. No seat was given to members of the diaspora, although the PPP did appoint a diaspora member or remigrant as an MP. The current coalition has appointed two members of the diaspora to diplomatic posts — in Dubai and Delhi. The diaspora is interested in politics of integrity, inclusion and national development. For the diaspora, country comes before self. This is quite unlike the political parties, which are more interested in themselves, and not the country or national development. Inclusive politics has been missing in their political agenda. They seemingly don’t want members of the diaspora around. How else can one interpret the exclusion of the diaspora in the politics of the nation? If the parties are serious about including the diaspora in political and economic development, then they immediately need to abolish that 2001 amendment that restricts the diaspora from seeking elective office.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram