The Prime Minister, others must respect constitutional requirement on reform

Dear Editor,

This government must not use the United Nations’ (UN) name to front any non-constitutional act. If it wants to be involved in any such act in pursuit of constitutional reform the actors must be bold enough to come out and not hide behind the UN. I’m in possession of a copy of the UN Report on the study for constitutional reform and having read it, the establishment of any commission for the process of reforming the Guyana Constitution has not been mentioned, explicitly or implicitly.

What the report noted is that reform, following a process of inclusivity and public education, can help advance cohesion in the society. In fact this recognition is, expressly and implicitly, required of us according to the Constitution.

Government’s attention is being drawn to Article 119A which expressly says, “The National Assembly shall establish a Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform for the purpose of continually reviewing the effectiveness of the working of the Constitution and making periodic reports thereon to the Assembly, with proposals for reform as necessary.” This is the only authoritative body that can recommend to the House, after a process of review, any ideas for reform. The establishment of any Bill for reform without recommendation from this Standing Committee is subverting the Constitution and disregarding the rule of law.

The government had appointed a committee hiding behind Article 119 when Article 119A specifically speaks to the process by which reform shall be done. For clarity, Article 119 was there from the inception of the Constitution, while Article 119A was enacted in 2001 out of the people’s desire to engage in continual review as against waiting for the establishment of a reform commission, as was done in 1999, to do so and act on.

To the best of the nation’s knowledge the Standing Committee, in this and the last parliament, never made any report or submission to the Assembly to commence any action on reform. The Constitutional Reform Bill this government has before the House to engage in such action has not followed the process outlined in the Constitution. Those who are supposed to be guardians of the Constitution are setting out to violate it.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee must be allowed to function and the Prime Minister and others must respect the constitutional requirement and process on proceeding with any effort at reform.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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