British High Commissioner to Guyana Greg Quinn yesterday said that it was hoped that more would have been done to push the constitutional reform process forward.
“…We would have liked to have seen more happen by now. I understand people if they are frustrated by the lack of speed and I can understand how they might be frustrated but, like I said, it is not just one individual or one group of individuals who should or can be held responsible for the lack of progress. If enough people say it is important enough, then it will happen,” Quinn told a reporters at a “Meet the Press Day” at his Bel Air Gardens home.
“…Our position is that constitutional reform needs to be a Guyanese-led process but certainly we encourage everybody across the political divide to actually engage with the process and we hope that there will be some good progress on constitutional reform going forward over the next months and years,” he added.
Quinn, in opening statements, reminded that the UK government had done some work with the Carter Center earlier this year. A public symposium was hosted in February at the Turkeyen campus of the University of Guyana by the Carter Center with the support of the UK High Commission.
Asked if he was satisfied with how the reform process is going at the moment, he said that there is always scope for more speed. “The people I talk to… political, NGO and the normal man and woman in the street, all of them seem to agree that there is the need for constitutional reform,” he said.
Asked to rate the process thus far, he reminded that constitutional reform is not only about the government. He said that the onus is on both sides of the National Assembly to push the issue forward.
Quinn said the plan in doing the public forum was to give the process a “nudge” and he felt this was successfully done as constitutional reform is still being discussed. “In terms of what we wanted that support to do…. we would be reasonably happy with what the result is but the fact of the matter is constitutional reform has to be a process which is led by Guyana. It is not for us to come along and say, ‘You need to do this,’” he said.
Quinn also informed that before he goes on leave next month, he plans to engage the government and pushing constitutional reform forward is one of the things he would like to discuss.
The Constitutional Reform Consultative Com-mission Bill 2017 was tabled on July 27 and referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform for consideration.
The bill represents 36 months of work, with contributions from the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform (SCCR) as well as the Constitutional Assessment Team from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA).
The Assessment Team, in a report, had said that the bill would be a key test of whether bipartisan support for constitution reform truly exists. “If it passes by one vote along party lines that will be a worrying sign for the process going forward,” the report stated before advising that consultation, negotiation, and compromise on the bill at the earliest stages will be critical to its unanimous passage in the National Assembly.
The Team had also said that the constitutional reform commission, which would be responsible for spearheading the process, must be “independent, representative and inclusive” of civil society. It was also recommended that the public at large must be provided with opportunities to participate and public education on constitutional workings and reform is critical in the facilitation of effective participation.
Constitutional reform was one of the promises in the APNU+AFC campaign manifesto and the government has faced criticism for not delivering.
Professor Harold Lutchman and head of the 2000 Constitution Reform Commission Ralph Ramkarran have said that neither the coalition government nor the opposition PPP/C appear to have any appetite for constitutional reform.
“What they support when they are in government is entirely different to what they support when they are out of government. The same thing they criticise when they are out of power, the same thing when they are in power they don’t see anything wrong with,” Lutchman, who was a member of the SCCR, had told Stabroek News in an interview.
In his budget presentation for 2017, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan committed $80 million to the establishment of “an administrative secretariat to manage the reform process and support the consultations, which are scheduled to begin in 2017.” There is no indication that such a secretariat has been established.