Frankly Speaking:Respecting what constitution?

Get an Education? Why?

A man-in-the-street definition of “Constitution”? That would be: the manner, character, or set of fundamental principles, laws, precepts and prescribed intentions on which any state (Guyana) is organized and governed.

A country’s Constitution is normally regarded as a national Bible-like guide for its citizens. The new South Africans call their new Constitution “The birth certificate of the nation”. Do you know of any State without a written, approved constitution? What do you know of Britain’s constitution?

I have always appreciated, as you should, that constitutions are ideals; standards of national behaviour to aspire to. Many of the good intentions in Constitutions are therefore, aspirational. The Guyanese citizen has the undeniable right to work, spelt out in the constitution. But what if no jobs are available? Easy to get the point, right.

Today, though, I wish to bemoan just how the Guyana Constitution is disrespected, ignored and regarded merely/only as sterile recommendations! By the ultimate “authorities” who are best placed to ensure that the Guyana Constitution, amended in 2003, is a living, active, legally-binding National Document we can be truly proud of. Frankly Speaking, even as it now is our Republic’s Constitution can actually stand comparison with any – anywhere in the world. Alas, too many of its objectives and directives are made to be useless.


Not observed, never enforced

A few citizens, sometimes turn to our courts of law to prove that their “rights” – their enshrined constitutional rights were violated. Most times by the very authorities bound to uphold them. We hardly hear of those cases and the findings. Except a notable few – to do with broadcasting, immigration, employment.

But here are a few examples to help you judge whether our constitution really attracts respect and any force in our daily lives.

For vivid example, the constitution places local government by local residents on the highest of pedestals. States the document: “Parliament shall provide that local democratic organs shall be autonomous and take decisions which are binding upon their agencies and institutions and upon the communities and citizens of their areas”.

Far from reality! The poor understaffed, under-resourced local authorities must depend on Georgetown’s centres for guidance and sustenance at all times. Hospitals fall short, there are few fire-stations, and no police agency bothers with Regional or District bosses, few local administrations inspire civic responsibility in their residents. The constitution’s intention here is made to look ludicrous and laughable! What constitution, serious citizens are apt to ask.

And check this: “Every public sector worker shall enjoy an absolute and enforceable right to any pension, gratuity granted to him or her under the provision of any law or collective agreement of any kind whatsoever”. Absolute? Enforceable? Numerous public servants cry when that retirement time arrives. And the personnel officers and tax men interpret. Poor constitution…

The rights to work, to education, to join trade unions, to land for social use, to maintenance and accommodation as a child – and soon. Great intentions. Little implementation. Hope you get my basic point. I know the struggle for a better quality of daily life precludes such study of a constitution. Given the constitutional disrespect rampant, however, should not the “ordinary” citizen be taught to lobby forcefully for most of what is in our constitution? Discuss.
An education? Why bother?
To be dramatic, extreme, but hopefully, effective I used to tell some reluctant but repentant and somewhat ambitious drop-out students that “even if you-all turn to running drugs, you ought to know to read, write, calculate and understand; cause your crooked partners could try to hoodwink, cheat you”.

Frankly Speaking, it is an extreme challenge to acquire a very well-rounded education these days. I mean the basics of literacy and numeracy combined with teaching to be tolerant, to reason and even to appreciate fine art, music and cultures of other people and places.

To me, modern education, even in Guyana, takes short-cuts through electronic and satellite/digital technology, to the extent that our present Dot.com generation is largely bereft of the ability to reason, to be analytical and truly human–being friendly. Out of hundreds of thousands only a fraction of young Guyanese know to spell well, read properly and use a wide vocabulary. Calculators and cell-phones rob them of a little but vital part of their humanity.

Still other young Guyanese abandon formal education to get rich quick with the barons, the cartels, the favoured contractors and the variety of conmanship and corruption readily available in this land-sad but true.

Never-the-less, I recommend for the trainers of our young, a publication titled “Manual on Civic Education for Youth in Guyana”. It’s a comprehensive civic education guide for modern Guyanese youth. The best to date I’ve seen. And yes, one chapter gallantly makes a case for the education that is still compulsory here.

“Education is our right”, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport publication reminds. Education helps youth to knowledge, skills, ability to develop all latent capabilities; to determine social status and economic standing. Education makes young people marketable to put Guyana on the competitive world market. And yes education can still make you employable in the fight against poverty.

There is so much more in this new manual. I recommend it. And I still recommend Education!
Guess what?
*1) One critic of Ralph Ramkarran’s presidential intention wrote: “That is selective democracy and selective democracy produces selective results and intended consequences…when a bunch of self-interested men can dictate the voting patterns of an entire party representing 184,000 voters…”

*2) M.P. Debbie Backer, you describe vintage Burnham: “You will have a say but we will have our way”. Vintage “consultation.”

*3) So, do you know of our national Fire Advisory Board?

*4) So now! Cde RHO Corbin will congratulate President Desi Bouterse! Personally!!

*5) I agree. Drop the noble Mandela name from that Dumpsite! It should be the Hammie Green dumpsite. The mayor has a Pharmacy right across the road!

’Til next week!

(Comment? allanafenty@yahoo.com)

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