CRC must address societal changes, emerging issues while still upholding core principle, citizens’ rights – Pres Ali

…Justice Cari Singh appointed as chairman

Members of much anticipated Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC) have been sworn-in by President Dr Irfaan Ali, who underscored the need for the body to address changes in the society and emerging issues but simultaneously ensuring that they uphold the core principles of the constitution as well as rights of citizens.

President Dr Irfaan Ali handing over the Instrument of Appointment to the Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Commission Retired Justice Carl Singh

The Head of State give this charge on Wednesday morning at the Office of the President, where he witnessed the CRC members taking their Oath of Office on Wednesday morning.
Delivering remarks, President Ali pointed out that the dynamic and evolving nature of societies and the world necessities periodic updates, refinements and reforms in order to ensure the constitution is continually relevant and effective.
“Political, societal and technological changes may present new challenges and opportunities that were not envisioned by the framers of the original Constitution, or by its subsequent reforms. A Constitution must remain a living document and not become archaic. It must possess the capacity for adaptation to be relevant and to effectively address new challenges, societal changes and emerging issues, while still uploading its core principles and protecting the rights of citizens,” the Guyanese Leader emphasized.
With wide-ranging representatives from political, civil society and other bodies, the Head of State noted that the weighty mandate of the Commission requires not only their diligence and dedication but also cooperation amongst members.
“As members of the Commission, it is imperative to recognize the weighty mandate entrusted upon you. I ask that you approach your responsibilities with utmost diligence and dedication, striving to foster an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect during your deliberations. It is imperative to acknowledge the significance of your work in shaping the future of constitutionalism in Guyana. Your ability to work together and achieve consensus will not only advance the cause of constitutional reform, but also serves as an encouragement for greater political and social inclusion,” the President posited.

President Dr Irfaan Ali with the newly sworn-in members of the Constitutional Reform Commission at the Office of the President of on Wednesday

The way was paved for the establishment of the Commission, and the commencement of the reform process following the passage of the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill in the National Assembly in November 2022. That Bill sought the establishment of a 20-member Commission to review the country’s supreme laws. It also imposes the power onto the President, at Section 4 (2) of the CRC Act, to appoint a Chairman of his own deliberate judgement.

Chairman of Commission
Consequently, President Ali appointed former acting Chancellor, Retired Justice Carl Singh, as the Chairman of the Commission, who along with the other CRC members took their oath on Wednesday. These include: Attorney General Anil Nandlall, S.C., along with Ministers Gail Teixeira, Dr Frank Anthony, Pauline Sukhai and Kwame McCoy – the representatives from the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government.
The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition is represented by Vincent Alexander, Sherwood Lowe, Ganesh Mahipaul and Nigel Hughes.

Labour Movement Representative, Aslim Singh; National Toshaos Council Representative, Derrick John; Private Sector Representative, Ramesh Persaud; Women Representative, Kim Kyte-Thomas; Youth Representative, Dr Josh Kanhai; Muslim Representative, Imran Ally; Hindu Representative, Radha Krishna Sharma; and Farmers’ Representative, Adrian Anamayah, were the other members sworn-in by President Ali on Wednesday.
Another political appointee, Timothy Jonas – the representative of the Joinder Parties in the National Assembly, along with the Guyana Bar Association Representative, Kamal Ramkarran, and Christian Representative, Keoma Griffith, were absent and will be sworn-in at a later date.

2022 law
The 2022 law outlines the key areas which should be considered for potential reforms by the Commission. These include the fundamental rights of citizens, indigenous peoples’ rights, rights of children, the eradication of discrimination, enhancement of race relations, promotion of ethnic security and equal opportunity, safeguarding minority rights, electoral reforms, economic, political and cultural rights, fiduciary responsibility, bolstering integrity in public office as well as the functioning of the National Assembly and local government.
President Ali told the Commission members that while these are wide-ranging are, they are not exhaustive of their scope of work. He further noted that constitution must be drafted in a clear and accessible language that is comprehensible to the average individual. This, according to Head of State, will ensure that all citizens understand their rights and obligations, thereby facilitating active participation in the democratic process and reinforcing the mutual understanding between the government and the governed.
The PPP/C Government has already assured that the public would play an integral role in deciding what reforms would be undertaken.

In fact, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo said last month that the Administration is committed to a consultative process with the public.
“As a serious party, as the largest party in the country, the only national party, we pointed out what we’ve done historically. We changed our constitution to one of the most progressive in the world. Very few constitutions have the features of ours – the rights commissions and a whole range of features that protect people and citizens.”
“Nevertheless, when there was a call for further constitutional reform, we said if there is a view that we should have that, we’re willing to put it back to the people of this country so they would be heard. That’s enshrined in our manifesto, and we’ll move it along; but we don’t have the arrogance of the small parties to say we will change this, because they never got that from the people, they supplant themselves. Some of them got 20 votes and want to speak on behalf of the people. We should go back to the people to listen to them, and that’s why the public hearing,” Jagdeo stated.
Constitutional reform was promised in the PPP/C Manifesto in 2020, where it was further outlined that consultation with the populace and important stakeholders, and a broad-based Constitutional Reform Commission would drive the process. (G8)