The Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform (SCCR) yesterday handed over its final report to Prime Minister Moses Nagamotooo, who will spend the next few days perusing it before it is taken to Cabinet for review.
Speaking following the handover, Nagamootoo said that the remit of the committee was to give direction and scope within which the constitutional reform process should take place. He noted that the coalition parties had placed the issue of constitutional reform high on their agenda.
“We hope that the guidance contained in this report, which is the final report, would be able to give us both enough time and space in which we could achieve the… [changes] in our constitution,” he said.
“Today, I am going to try to read this and see what I would be able to do to take it forward, first to the Cabinet and then we would announce the further stages in the process,” Nagamootoo said.
He used the opportunity to express profound appreciation to attorney Nigel Hughes for convening the committee. He made mention of committee member Haslyn Parris who died earlier this year and thanked Professor Duke Pollard, who was present at the simple handing-over ceremony, for his help in seeing the project to finality.
Hughes, in brief remarks, paid tribute to Parris and to the late Sheldon McDonald, who headed the Law Department at the University of Guyana for the significant contributions he had made to the report.
He also singled out Professor Pollard and attorney Stephen Fraser for the assistance they had given to the committee.
Hughes told the media that he is not at liberty to disclose the contents of the report.
He said the committee met regularly on Fridays and finally submitted what he considers to be the “framework of the pathway of the constitutional reform commission” which it is hoped will be established shortly.
The SCCR came into being in August last year with a six-person membership: Hughes, Parris, Professor Harold Lutchman, Geeta Chandan-Edmond and Gino Persaud.
An interim report was handed over to Nagamootoo on December 31 last but the committee had asked for some more time to complete the full report. The committee had initially given a commitment to submit a full report at the end of last month but this was delayed due to the death of Parris.
The interim report had detailed how to balance executive powers with that of the judiciary and the legislature.
Nagamootoo had said last month that his expectation when the final report is out, is that it will identify priorities and timelines because they want the reforms to be completed before another general election.
Describing the interim report as a “good document,” Nagamootoo said it goes into some areas that are very detailed in terms of what ought to be changed in the constitution. “It includes looking at the powers of the presidency, the executive as such…what we had said during the campaign that we are going to tame some of those powers, we’re going to look also at the geographic system whether you have enough representation in the Parliament from geographic constituencies,” he related.
“So they had gone into some detail on how to change the nature of our parliamentary democracy and how to balance the executive powers with the power of the judiciary and that of the legislature,” the Prime Minister added. He said it was a very detailed excursion into a long list of areas.