It’s not compliance that is the problem it is the structure itself

Dear Editor,

Lincoln Lewis’s letter ‘The deformities do not lie in the structure but in the refusal of persons to comply with the structure’ (SN, July 3) is Lewis’s trademark tireless tirade. He is, as usual, wrong. Forget the fact that the 1980 constitution was forged out of fraud, which was not fixed by the bland 1999 reforms, for any modern democratic constitutional structure to work it must have  the three basic arms of state (executive, legislature and judiciary) entrenched and protected. Secondly, it must have a balance of power among and between those pillars of state; thirdly, it must possess the checks and balances to check and balance every arm of the state; and fourthly,  it must have the ability to deliver corrective or enforcement action against any arm of the state in order to protect the entire state itself and the rights of the citizenry of the state.

Lewis argues that compliance with the structure is the problem, not the structure (constitution) itself. As said above, this is wrong. The structure is flawed, broken and failed. It provides no consequentiality, penalty or repercussion against lack of compliance or any credible inducement for compliance. Using Mr Lewis’s example of Article 119A (echoed by Mr Nandlall) that creates the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform as the panacea for constitutional reform, the farce is that Article 119A is a bluntly empty article. There is no timeline, no fixed schedule of meetings, no duty or requirement to undertake specified constitutional reviews by specific times, no penalty for failure to do so and no impetus to force the politicians to act in the people’s interest. It is a shambolic charade of a clause that if removed, would make no difference. To expect the politicians from either side of a deep divide to bridge the gap and engage in a meaningful exercise of constitutional reform under Article 119A is to expect a miracle in modern day Guyana.

Anyone looking at this travesty of an article coined in a country of deeply trenchant politics would know it is useless unless it forces the political sides to act meaningfully and forcefully in the public’s interest to deliver constitutional reform and there is nothing to that effect.

Returning to Mr Lewis’s sanctity of structure, Guyana is probably the only constitution in the modern democratic world where the judiciary is specifically excluded from the rudimentary pillars of the state.

The reason for this in the Guyana constitution is simple: to prevent the judiciary from blocking executive power, particularly when it becomes despotic. Article 50 names the president, cabinet (appointed by the President) and parliament (of which the president is an equal) as the supreme organs of the state. The judiciary is missing. The president dominates two arms of the state and while equal on paper, actually has greater powers to block and control the law-making function of the legislature even when the president’s party has a minority. Even with the excluded judiciary, the executive still plays a domineering function in the selection of judges and the judiciary, more especially by default where acting appointments effectively act as full appointments at the president’s behest.

So, the executive has a strong or persuasive hand in every pillar of the state and an overarching dominance in the entire state. In the zero-sum game of ethno-politics that stalks this land, how could any rational human being expect the political parties representing the two major ethnic blocs to relinquish that outlandish executive power when the deformed constitution does not constitutionally allow it or force them to do so? History has proven they will not surrender that malformed power and the mere fact that Mr Lewis continues to blame politicians for the mess while bypassing the very document that empowers them to avoid compliance with largely empty provisions is either an exercise of intellectual fraud or is one grand smokescreen.

Look at the four factors mentioned above that guide and control acceptable, fair, reasonable, democratic, equitable and balanced constitutional structure in modern democracies and look at the Guyana constitution and it is unequivocally clear that the latter is perverse. The PNC in 1980 and the PPP-PNC in 1999 did nothing of substance to fix this abomination. Toss this piece of trash in the garbage and start over.

Yours faithfully,

M Maxwell

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