Practical power sharing – the Guyana Action Party proposal

Democracy, even with all its faults, is viewed as the fairest system of government yet devised. However, in multi-ethnic societies, including Guyana, there is the concern that the most numerous or powerful group will rule in their own favour at the expense of less numerous or weaker groups. These problems have surfaced most glaringly in Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, new republics from the former Soviet Union, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and many others. Most of the named countries were held together by strong-men under communist or socialist ideologies and not under democratic norms.

In order to counter these negatives there has been a call by many to share power with a view to forming a government of national unity. The ‘Sharing of Power’ is intended to give the smaller groups a say in the running of the country and give the larger group a sense of security, in that there will no longer be a resented majority, due to the fact that the rights of the minorities are being addressed, which leads to equity, fairness and thus stability.

Some practical questions will be “How do we share power? How can a country be governed by different people with sometimes opposing views on what needs to be done?” At first glance it may seem like a recipe for chaos.

In actual fact it is done all the time. The most stable and prosperous countries in the world share power. It is also a fact that the most unstable and least prosperous countries in the world are saddled with factions fighting each other for power to the death, unfortunately often literally.

How do these stable and prosperous countries share power? They do it by means of their constitution. For a prosperous country, the constitution guarantees the basic rights of citizens and, just as important, provides checks and balances that limit the power of those in government. These checks and balances are the means by which power is shared among all parties represented, especially members of the opposition.

Various countries have different provisions in their constitution to arrive at the objective of dispersing and sharing power such that the government has the power to rule but that there are limitations to that power so as to prevent abuse.

GAP proposes the following changes to the constitution to share power, thus creating the conditions for stability, security, justice, peace and prosperity.

The objective of the GAP proposal is to disperse and share the functions of government, and thus power, among different persons and entities so as to provide enough power for effective government, but at the same time to place the limits that would prevent the abuse of that power.

THE GAP PROPOSAL

SEPARATE THE HEAD OF STATE FROM THE HEAD OF GOVERNMENT.

The President will be the head of state.

The Prime Minister will be head of government

FUNCTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT

The President will be the Commander-in-Chief of the security services.

The President will appoint the services and rights commissions, including complaints authorities, with some members nominated by appropriate stakeholder bodies, after real consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

The Office of the President will oversee the Auditor General’s office, the Central Tender Board, The Ombudsman and any other bodies that oversee government activities that affect the rights of Citizens in a direct manner.

FUNCTIONS OF THE PRIME MINISTER

The Prime Minister will be responsible for the proper functioning of government

The Prime Minister will appoint a Cabinet of Ministers to assist in this task, who will head the appropriate arms of the Civil Service.

The Prime Minister will be accountable to Parliament.

ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT

The President will be elected by a three quarters majority of Parliament. This is necessary to ensure that the President has the confidence of at least some Opposition Members of Parliament, and is someone who has the respect of a vast majority of the population expressed through their representatives.

ELECTION OF THE PRIME MINISTER

The Prime Minister would be elected by popular vote as normal i.e. by a simple majority of Parliament. However, the ‘List System’ must be done away with and replaced by a system that directly chooses the Members of Parliament.

INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY

For the above to actually work the Judiciary must be independent of political interference.  Efforts will be made to strengthen the Judiciary, even if it means hiring legal professionals from outside of Guyana (Commonwealth countries, Sri Lanka, India, Nigeria, Ghana, New Zealand etc) for a period of five years.

FURTHER AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION

There are other issues that concern effective power sharing, effective participation by all citizens and appropriate checks and balances. These would include, but would not be limited to,

The position of a central bank.

Bi-cameral or uni-cameral Parliament.

Parliamentary representation by constituency or by proportional representation or a hybrid system

A place for civil society within Parliament

Effective local Government

There is therefore the need to re-convene the Constitution Reform Commission to allow the citizens to decide on the constitution they want.

PROPOSAL AS A BASIS FOR A COMMON POSITION

These changes to the constitution require a large parliamentary majority or a referendum. If the ruling party does not agree only a new administration will make it possible to change the constitution.

In fact, power sharing must be the most important issue raised by any opposition party or group of parties. This proposal can form a common platform for parties to commit to and to rally around. All who agree, be they political parties, non political groups/organisations or individuals can find common cause. It can be one of the bases for alliances and/or coalitions.

However, a mere promise of constitutional change is not enough. There must be a commitment to specific changes. If this is not done then all sorts of excuses and justifications will be made to delay any change to ‘a time to be fixed’.  On the other hand, if specific actions are committed to, then any refusal or delay would have consequences that cannot be escaped.

THE SPECIFIC COMMITMENT

The specific commitment that all in the alliance or coalition will honour will be as follows:

On examination of the legal implications of the proposed changes and finding solutions  and or remedies to any impediments a New Government shall commit to the following:

On attaining office the President will use the powers conferred under the present

Constitution to delegate the administration of the government to the Prime Minister as outlined in the proposal. The President will then as per proposal outlined above take on the function of “The Protector” of the Constitutional Rights of the Citizenship.

The Constitutional Commission will be re-convened within thirty days to deliberate and to seek the opinion of citizens on changes to the Constitution they seek.



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