Constitutional reform to come from national discussion – PPP promises

PPP/C Presidential Candidate, Dr Irfaan Ali

As constitutional reform under the current coalition Government has hit a brick wall, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in its 2020 election manifesto has promised that if elected to office, it would advance constitutional reform with the input of the citizens themselves.
In its manifesto, the Party noted the importance of ensuring that the people participate in something as critical as revising the supreme law. The Party referenced the constitutional reform it piloted in the late 90s-early 2000s as an example of the process that is needed.
“We are aware that issues concerning constitutional reform, particularly in relation to a national, inclusive governance model, management of elections, fiduciary accountability, enhancing rights of Guyanese and ensuring constitutional language is simple have been raised and discussed in the public domain.
“However, we believe that these, as well as other issues, must be part of a process of widespread consultation with the people of Guyana before being acted upon. The extensive changes to our Constitution under the PPP/C followed such a process. Moving forward, we are committed to continuous revision of the Constitution,” the Party noted.
“In this regard, we will ensure that the Committee on Constitutional Reform that will advance the work will pursue nationwide consultation following the model used in the past, that is, with half of the members from civil society and equal representation from Government and the Opposition.
Over the past few years, constitutional reform has been before a parliamentary committee. There is a Constitutional Reform Commission Bill that was to be examined by the Committee. The Bill was published on July 26, 2017, and was introduced in the National Assembly on July 27, 2017, and read for the first time. But there have been accusations made of members of the Committee stalling the process.
Constitutional reform was one of the main promises that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition campaigned on for the 2015 Elections. However, the Administration has been heavily criticised for not delivering the reform, which was a top priority in its manifesto.
The bipartisan Committee on Constitutional Reform was formed in 2015. The Committee comprises Chairman, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams; Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan; Education Minister Nicolette Henry, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and Public Service Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine.
Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Committee include Anil Nandlall, Priya Manickchand, Dr Frank Anthony and Adrian Anamayah. The Bill was sent to the Committee to be examined as it is the body responsible for dealing with constitutional matters.
The Opposition had raised concerns about the Prime Minister leading the constitutional reform process as they had argued that the PM did not have the clout to negotiate or make any commitments to the Opposition. Meetings have been infrequent, with accusations being made that members are not attending when called to do so.