Home News Govt takes major step to push forward with constitutional reform
Draft legislation on the Constitutional Reform Bill was tabled in the National Assembly on Thursday by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, paving the way for the establishment of a Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission to guide this long overdue process.
This move is seen as a major step to assist with constitutional reform, something that the coalition Government promised to deliver during its election campaign.
Following the first reading of this Bill in Parliament, the draft will be sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform for consideration and report.
According to the draft bill, the Consultative Commission will be made up of 15 members. The establishment of this commission will allow for some 100 countrywide public consultations. The bill allows for President David Granger to appoint two constitutional law experts. Eleven of the other members will be nominated each from the parliamentary parties; trade union movement; organisations representing Guyanese youths; the Guyana Bar Association; the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers; Christian, Muslim, and Hindu organisations and the National Toshaos Council.
The bill states that if any entity fails to make a nomination, the President shall appoint a member to represent that entity after due consultation.
The six criteria for selecting membership of the Commission shall include experience, knowledge of Guyana’s Constitution, commitment, academic expertise, and practical expertise.
Further, the Commission will be tasked with assisting the Standing Committee in the Committee’s review of how effectively Guyana’s Constitution has been working and to ascertain the views from Guyanese through consultations in the 10 Administrative Regions.
The Consultative Commission on Constitutional Reform will be funded by the Consolidated Fund, and donations and contributions from international agencies.
Constitutional reform was a hot topic during the 2015 General and Regional Elections campaign, with the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition promising to undertake the task. As part of the reform process, Government had touted major changes to the governance structure, including separate elections to elect a President and National Assembly members; the capping of presidential powers and changes to the composition of service commissions.
The Constitutional Reform Steering Committee that was established would be responsible for effecting the changes to the Constitution when Government finalised its decision on the reforms.
The Committee, which comprises former Director of Transparency International and Attorney Gino Persaud, Professor Harold Lutchman, former Magistrate Geeta Chandan-Edmond and was chaired by Attorney and former AFC Executive Member Nigel Hughes, was established by the Sub-committee on Parliamentary Affairs reportedly without consultation with the parliamentary Opposition.
In fact, former General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Clement Rohee had explained shortly after the Commission was established that the Party was not invited to field any representative to the Committee. He noted that the Party viewed the persons appointed as “APNU/AFC hacks” and “residents of Office of the President”.
Moreover, he maintained that the PPP was proud of its accomplishments as far as constitutional reforms piloted back in the 2000s were concerned.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that while the PPP has an open mind about constitutional reform, it was concerned now about the daily breaches of the Constitution, and law and order.
He said he did not understand why Guyana should be pursuing a new round of constitutional reform when the Government did not appear to respect the provisions agreed on in the past.