There has to be a commitment to change first

Dear Editor,

Suddenly constitutional reform is, to listen to the local oracles of sagaciousness, not of such vital importance anymore.  Reform is now replaced at centre stage by an emphasis on implementation of what already exists.  I agree and disagree, even as I wonder as to the origins of that strange wind.

I disagree that constitutional reform should not remain the focus of front burner interest, attention, and action.  As is well known and has come in for much combustible commentary, there are too many areas and provisions within the current constitution that cause anxiety, if not outright terror, and which cry out for change.  The powers associated with the executive presidency happen to be one such abomination, and need no reintroduction; those have to go.  The same can be said for those instances where the language is opaque to the point of numbness ‒ perhaps deliberately so ‒ and is subject to every manner of capricious, sometimes spurious, interpretation.  This usually favours the mover and the incumbents.  These gaps must be revised, too.

In terms of implementation of what is on the books, this much can be said without fear of challenge or too much dispute: This country has too much paper on an endless continuum of subjects and issues.  There is so much paper around that it would be sufficient to absorb any waters crashing over the seawall and threatening to inundate Georgetown.  This state of affairs did not come about overnight or without sponsors, calculating sponsors.

The current government and its predecessor have both manifested an unerring instinct for and equal enthusiasm in the paper generation department.  Whether studies, or inquiries, or master plans, it has been the same tree-chopping frenzy.  Only the ink and toner people come out ahead.  The problem, as has been written about on several occasions, is that after the paper, there is little of substance following, if anything at all.  It is consignment to the dust and cobwebs of the shelves, and the smirking self-satisfaction of having pulled the wool over the eyes of the Guyanese people yet again.  This is part of now settled culture: suffocate them with paper.  It goes without saying that if the need for additional camouflage arises, then the call goes for more paper.

It can be said with a great degree of accuracy and confidence that, for the most part, nothing gets enforced, nothing gets done, and nothing changes.  Of course, every now and again there is flicker of movement; this occurs as soon as the foreign experts motor past the Demerara Harbour Bridge towards the delights of Georgetown, to solemnly exhort the natives about the vital necessity of change through enforcement.  At that time, the ancient (but much ignored) wisdom of implementation enjoys a renaissance on life for papers are retrieved, dusted off, and it is off to the enforcement races.  There is the circus of once stodgy dismissive men, who are suddenly born again believers in the power and rewards of implementation.

In recent years, I can think of only one instance of actual and consistent implementation of all that accumulated paper: this has been in the surging, never-ending expanse of anti-money laundering requirements.  Quite frankly, this society does not have that much of a choice.  Observing citizens should be quick to note the clamour and ensuing fallout from all levels on adherence to those requirements.  That in and of itself brings to this point: true reform of any area, including constitutional reform, will only come about when nationals are transformed to the point where there is genuine commitment to change and which sometimes means hard choices and self-sacrifice to boot.  Such commitment and self-sacrifice start with personal character and mental reform, which is then followed by implementation.  Otherwise, it is all jabber, empty meaningless jabber not worth the paper on which such matters are written and embellished ad nauseam.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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