Nandlall on Constitution impresses, surprises, disappoints

Dear Editor,

Having read the report ‘Constitutional compliance needed, not reform’  -Nandlall’ (SN,  September 22) I must say there is full agreement with the views expressed by PPP/C Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall. Nandlall on matters of the Guyana Constitution continues to impress, surprise, and disappoint me. He is correct in pointing out conversations for reforming the constitution are not driven by the understanding of the instrument and are influenced by foreign forces who themselves have not taken the time to read and understand this document.

The instances he citied where the current administration is flagrantly disregarding the constitution are also correct. And while he correctly points out the APNU+AFC’s violations, he fails to remind the nation of the wanton violations that occurred under successive PPP/C governments when he sat in its upper echelons and served as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.

The cycle of disrespecting the constitution as perpetrated by the PPP/C and APNU+AFC must stop, for it has done this nation a grave disservice and its people  tremendous harm. It is way past time that this instrument becomes part of our formal education curriculum.  The country may have lost a generation or two for respecting the legal foundation that gives meaning to our existence due to petty political partisanship and ignorance. But it is not too late to insulate the younger and coming generation from such travesty.

Note is taken that Mr Nandlall in addressing the forum made it clear that the views he expressed were his own, and not those of the PPP/C. This relatively young man is urged to have similar conversations with his party leadership and also among its supporters and members at its bottom house and public meetings. I don’t know if being in the opposition has allowed him the time or impressed upon him the importance of understanding this instrument, but I do know his focus adds to the importance of securing knowledge and bringing about public education and awareness.

It is foolhardy to change what is not known, understood, or given a chance to work, and this is the dilemma the nation faces in the calls for constitutional reform. At the same time the Constitution allows the opposition to assert itself in the National Assembly (Article 171) and Nandlall as shadow minister for Legal Affairs can lead the charge in bringing Bill(s) to give meaning to the political system which identifies the principal objective to be pursued by Guyanese society as “inclusionary democracy” (Article 13).

We can start looking at the composition of state boards, where the stakeholders are included and a portion set aside for the political parties based on seat representation in the National Assembly, the nation’s highest decision-making and most representative forum. At the level of the local democratic organs, the towns as well as the regional and neighbourhood democratic councils can have their devolution of power as required by the Constitution (Article 75) by moving to bring Bills to secure their autonomy. The nation has the benefit of such a bill languishing somewhere in the Assembly that was brought by then PNC Minister of Regional Development Jeffrey Thomas in the 1990s. Though it never reached full debate it could serve as guide in moving the process forward.

As a trade unionist I remain mindful of the continuous violation of the protected fundamental rights and freedoms of all Guyanese (Title 1) and the exclusion of the trade union in playing a meaningful role in the management and decision-making processes of the state as expressly outlined in Article 149C. This is one of the protected rights and freedoms that continues to be denied.

Mr Nandlall is on to something right at this time and can be seen as an ally in the crusade to bring about respect for and the upholding of the Constitution. He is urged to put his political muscle behind his presentation on a national scale. Note is also taken of Ms Gail Teixeira having to remind Minster Raphael Trotman of the importance of consultation in moving ahead with constitutional reform.  The constitution requires the involvement of individuals and groups on matters that impact their wellbeing (Article 13); the report by representative of the United Nations who came to advise on moving forward with reform made such known to the government, though in diplomatic language, and it must be respected.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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