I am enthralled by the recent ongoing debate in your columns on constitutional reform. There was Nandall saying that Nagamootoo’s plans for a constitutional reform commission are a mere political gimmick. He opined that there is a parliamentary standing committee to deal with constitutional issues, which Nagamootoo is aware of, and that the coalition is railroading the reform they promised in their campaign.
Lincoln Lewis wrote: “I insist the faults are in politics and not the constitution.” In support of his contention he quoted Article 13: “The principal objective of the system of state is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing opportunities for the participation of citizens and their organizations in the management and decision-making processes of the state, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.” In my opinion Article 13 as a concept is like a large pot of hot water with a single tea bag inside: you simply can’t see its effectiveness. Nevertheless, Lewis thinks that Article 13 should be concentrated in some form of solution, called bills, and then taken to Parliament to be given life.
The idea of the common man is that a constitution is a set of laws by which a government governs a country; laws to which they could be held accountable. Article 13 is so vague that it is little wonder that Lewis said, “the politicians are in their best element talking the talk and not walking the walk.”
From what is written in Article 13 my untrained eye tells me that the PPP/C acted in contravention of the constitution when they did not consult with the people and invested NIS monies on the Berbice Bridge; there was no consultation for the Marriott either. Now the coalition is using the same road to divest GuySuCo and the signing of the oil deal with Exxon; they have given the oil deal the status of ‘top secret’. How much more ludicrous can this be? In the meanwhile the masses are for the umpteenth time reduced to mere bystanders.
The PPP/C has no interest in constitutional reform. Their leaders had thrived under the present constitution. With the fortunes of the coalition drifting further south in the hearts of the people, the PPP/C fancy their chances to achieve ‘nirvana’ once again in 2020. As for the coalition, their campaign was purely political posturing; tell the people what they want to hear just to get their vote. Now in power they seem clueless. CoIs have become the order of the day. The politicians on both sides of the divide don’t want any major changes to the constitution; they all crave the freedom and power it gives them.
We need changes in the way we elect our MPs. We need to move to a constituency basis where we vote for an individual to represent us in parliament from each constituency. Non-political candidates must be allowed to contest too. In this manner our MPs can be the guardians of our constitution because they will have to be responsive to their constituents ‒ the people and not a political leader. In like manner our search for a president should allow people of acumen from civil society to contest too.
Our last two elections resulted in two of the most mediocre individuals acceding to the presidency. The constitution must be designed to attract charismatic individuals to run for the presidency. The immunity clause for the president must be rescinded and an impeachment one instituted. Our presidents must not be like gods among men.
I would like to see young people join the debate. Lincoln Lewis said that the constitution should be seen as an “instrument” ‒ musical I suppose! So far the only ones dancing are the sixty-five seat holders, dancing in collusion with their masters, the political leaders. They have been dancing since independence; no wonder Guyana remains in checkmate.