Can any meaningful constitutional reforms be achieved?

Dear Editor,

With reference to the reformation of the Constitution, recently there have been some letters in the press on this subject, even mention of $80 million available from the United Nations to finance this cause.  Unfortunately, the letters seem to deal with important but minor issues when considering the broad scheme of things.

It is suggested the main issues are (a) accountability, (b) at elections, who is being elected to serve whom?  (c) Can any meaningful reforms be achieved?

First (a) Accountability:  Under the present system a member of parliament is accountable to the party, not to the Guyanese people.  If a member of parliament votes against the party’s instructions, that member will be expelled from parliament.  Hence the party rules not the parliamentarian.

Second (b) At elections I am told ‘we the people will elect the members of parliament’.  Frankly that is how it was in the beginning as stated in the preamble of the first Constitution, but over the years changes have been made and the preamble now states: “Forge a system of government that promotes …etc.”  There is absolutely nothing about ‘elect’.  The party puts out a list.  The people vote for a party, the party appoints the members of parliament who have to obey the dictates of the party’s executive or be expelled from the parliament.  Thus, you have a situation where a small group of people (the party’s executive) rules Guyana.  This leads to all types of corruption.

Third (c) Can any meaningful reforms be achieved?  Yes, but how far will the present politicians allow us to go?  First, they could introduce secret ballots in parliament.  Second, parliament must obey the dictates of the Constitution and a time limit set for implementation, which if not met, will cause members of parliament to lose their salaries until the matter is cleared.  There must be accountability.  There is also the possibility of reintroducing our first independence Constitution; it was allegedly good and democratic, but for many reasons we the people were robbed of our country.

There is always a good reason to change the so-called Burnham Constitution.  When in opposition no party likes it.  When in power no party changes it.  Why?  That may be the subject of another screed.

Yours faithfully,

John Willems

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