Home Letters People should not be treated with contempt on sovereignty issue
In another section of the media, former Chairman of the Constitutional Commission, Ralph Ramkarran and Lincoln Lewis are of the view that the people are not sovereign and as such, their assent to the Constitution or its amendment is not needed. Ramkarran is reported to have stated if the CCJ appeal of the ruling (affirming the requirement of a referendum) of the Carl Singh court ruling is not overturned, the Attorney General and his Government have another opportunity to foist the amendment on the people – via a referendum. The people should not be treated with such contempt and disrespect as a body of last resort (to give assent to an amendment) and give sovereignty when all else fails. Lincoln Lewis argues that the people give up their sovereignty to the parties in Parliament. He is wrong as the Parliament is not directly elected by the people; the people never give approval on who are their party MPs. So the Parliament cannot speak for the people on an important issue like the Constitution.
Democracy is about the people. A constitution is a body of rules on how people will be governed. The people are consulted and usually asked to give their approval on a constitution. That is yet to be done in Guyana. Burnham rigged the 1978 referendum and drafted his own Constitution without consulting the people. He foisted the Constitution on the people. The PPP and all other Opposition parties as well as civic and religious organisations opposed it. Although the PPP, WPA, TUF, AFC, JFA, and other parties objected to the Constitution, when in Government, these very parties accept it. In Opposition, they all promised a new constitution via a referendum. But in Government, none of them has taken any measure to draft a new constitution or even hint that the people are sovereign and should be afforded an opportunity to vote on it. When it suits their interests, the people are sovereign. The people are not sovereign now. But if the CCJ rules against the PNC-dominated Government, then the people will be sovereign.
The people should be given priority and sovereignty now and immediately asked to vote on the Burnham Constitution as well as its amendments. Nearly all other democratic countries consult their people on constitutional change. Even tiny St Vincent and Grenada recently held referendums on constitutional changes; voters rejected the change. The UK allowed a vote on Brexit. Spain allowed a vote on the status of Catalan. England allowed a vote on the status of Scotland.
The ‘PNC-AFC’ coalition Government should forget about a CCJ appeal. Go directly to the people with a referendum on the entire fraudulent Burnham Constitution! The amount of money spent on the court proceedings and that which will also be spent on the planned CCJ appeal will dwarf the cost of a referendum.
Also, the ‘PNC/AFC’ Government says it is interested in drafting a new constitution. If indeed that is the case, then why waste funds on an appeal of the Justice Carl Singh court ruling when such scarce funds can be used to consult the people on drafting a constitution and financing a referendum of it? Instead of supporting an appeal to the CCJ and waiting for its ruling, Mr Ramkarran and Mr Lewis should advocate for a referendum of the amended Burnham Constitution and/or the drafting of a new constitution to be approved by the people. Let the people decide on an important measure like a constitution or its amendments.