Widespread consultations overrule an expeditious timeframe as it relates to constitutional reform, President David Granger stated as he explained why his administration was unable to fulfil its manifesto promise to
ensure draft recommendations are presented to the National Assembly for approval within nine months.
During an interview on ‘The Public Interest’ TV programme, President Granger explained that it is impossible for such a magnitude of undertaking to be completed in nine months.
He outlined that the availability of a framework for constitutional reform is an indication of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition’s determinedness in keeping its promise.
Moreover, he underscored the importance of the consultation process.
“I have asked for the process to be consultative because we have had different opinions on the constitution since in the mid-1970s and I feel the people of Guyana should have a constitution that is not subjected to acrimony,” the President said.
In this regard, he stated that those in charge of the constitutional reform process must embark on widespread consultation across the country in order to capture the concerns of the public.
“I would like to see more than rushing to timeline, I would like to see thorough consultations countrywide and those consultations must be countrywide and not boardroom consultations,” he said, noting that those leading the charge must travel to the various outlying communities to get the citizens’ views on these matters.
According to the APNU/AFC Coalition Election Manifest 2015, it will ensure the establishment of a Constitutional Reform Committee with a mandate to complete consultations, draft amendments and present same to the National Assembly for approval within the first nine months in Office.
With more than a year gone, Cabinet is still in the process of reviewing the report of recommendations on constitutional reforms submitted by the Steering Committee.
The report was handed over to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo on April 30, 2016 by Convener and Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Steering Committee (CRSC), Attorney Nigel Hughes.
The committee was established by government last August to define the scope of the actual reform process, and formulate the terms of reference and mechanisms for consultation to establish a Constitution Reform Commission (CRC).
It is expected that a CRC will come on stream and it is this commission which will effect the changes to the Constitution.
The report recommends the reduction in the powers of the presidency, among other matters.
The manifesto had outlined the need to rebalance the powers and responsibilities of the Prime Minister and the President in a manner meant to reduce abuse, avoid conflicts of interest, and facilitate the more efficient execution of state functions.
Previously Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had noted that it is critical for changes to the constitution prevail before General and Regional Elections 2020. (Devina Samaroo)