Citing the need for urgent constitutional reform, RISE, a new advocacy group of free-thinking, post-racial individuals was yesterday evening launched at Moray House before a sizable audience with the aim of bringing about such change.
RISE is an acronym for Reform, Inspire, Sustain and Educate, and its members, drawn from
civil society, include engineer, Marcel Gaskin, who in March of this year had filed an application asking the court to review President David Granger’s eligibility criteria for the Gecom chairmanship; managing director of Camex Limited Terrence Campbell and Attorney Nadia Sagar. The group’s legal advisor is Attorney Timothy Jonas.
According to its brochure, RISE members are individuals who have decided to put Guyana and Guyanese first, noting that constitutional reform was key to executive accountability, racial harmony and political, economic and social inclusivity.
Gaskin informed the gathering that RISE believes reform is necessary given the lack of accountability on the part of officials, the lack of separation of powers and the failure of the present Constitution to facilitate the ability of independent candidates to run for the presidency or membership of the National Assembly.
He added that the group is of the opinion that, “unless an external force is brought to bear the politicians will continue to drag their feet and/or institute changes that do not wholly address the problem in its entirety. This is the reason why RISE was formed.”
He said the grouping will be examining the criticisms of the present Constitution with the hope of acting upon them. “There are many criticisms and each will be acted upon according to its merit,” he added. And while he noted that amendments have been made to the Constitution, “whether these go far enough is questionable,” he stated.
Campbell noted that, “the post 2020 oil economy is far too important to be left in the hands of any government… We feel that the current constitutional structure is too deficient to be left in the hands of any government whatsoever.”
Beginning in August, the group intends to start engaging with citizens, private sector groups, political parties and eventually the diaspora with a view of creating awareness on the need for constitutional reform. It has a broad wish list for constitutional change, which will impact electoral reform, transparency in public procurement, transformation in education, social cohesion and accountability in the public sector.
Meanwhile, the advocacy group also believes consensus will be achieved through the involvement of civil society as stated in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on Guyana’s constitutional assessment.
The Constitutional Assessment Team from the UNDP and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA), which visited Guyana in February on an invitation from Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, was tasked with advising on opportunities, risks, and considerations for UN constitutional support to the Government of Guyana and other stakeholders in this process, including advice on possible programmatic support by the UN.
The UN team was the second to submit a report on the process of constitutional reform over the last two years. The first was the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform, which submitted its report to Nagamootoo in April of 2016.
Not a third party
Meanwhile, the group dismissed rumours that it was a third political party. “We are not a political party, today is not the launching of a political party… but if through the process of finding out more on how constitutional reform can be achieved it is necessary to go the political route I think many of us in this group are prepared to do so,” a member of the group said in response to a question on whether they have any political ambitions.
The APNU+AFC government has come under increasing pressure over its failure to deliver on its manifesto promise of the appointment of a commission within three months of taking office to amend the constitution. Two years have passed without this commission being established. More recently, the government had said that $80 million were set aside for consultations countrywide this year. Half of the year has passed without any consultations being held.
However, on Tuesday, government announced that the constitutional reform and consultative bill would be laid in the National Assembly before the parliamentary recess in August.