People are painting the Constitution as ineffective when they haven’t read it, don’t understand it and have a personal hatred for Forbes Burnham

Dear Editor,

 

I am responding to Terrence Campbell (‘RISE’s contribution clearly recognised that not all changes required amendment to the Constitution,’ SN, September 25) and Tarron Khemraj (‘There has to be a completely new constitution,’ SN, September 26).

Mr Campbell is being deceptive in making the assertion that I am “obstinate in [my] opposition to constitutional reform.”  My advocacy for respecting and upholding the rule of law, and notably the Guyana Constitution that enshrines provision for constitutional reform (Article 119A) which my letter (September 24) concluded with, makes the case for his recklessness in treating with this serious matter.

Whether the group RISE issued a statement that “some of these changes require constitutional amendments and others can be effected via legislation” what Campbell reportedly told the University of Guyana sponsored symposium is that there is need for constitutional reform to bring about a constituency based system.  His statement is wrong and misleading.

Were Article 160 (Electoral System) read and understood and attention paid to the evolving political environment it would have been realised the 2016 local government elections fielded constituency based candidates, and this was made possible not through constitutional reform but the Act that allows for creating the formula for the people to elect their representatives.

There continues to be confusion between the Constitution which establishes the framework and the legislation which puts the meat on the framework. This must be sorted out lest the nation continues to be misinformed and misguided, thereby leaving the politicians to run wild and wreak havoc on the nation and continue their abuse of the people.

The Constitution has more than 200 articles, but Mr Khemraj takes objection to one (Article 160) stating “there has to be a completely new Constitution” because this offending article allows for “individual rights [to be] trumped by group interests.” This argument doesn’t hold because the individual’s rights and freedoms (Title 1) still await legislation to give them meaning. If Mr Khemraj is speaking about political representation, nothing prevents the parties from putting in place a system that would ensure a list reflecting the will of the people, the people from having a say on who they want on the list, or holding to account those who are elected to serve. In fact, the Constitution allows such latitude and accountability.

For instance, the PNC was onto something progressive when it started primaries to elect its presidential candidate. This could have been built on, and it should be noted this act did not require constitutional reform, in the same way as some could run in the local government elections as independents and in the constituency based system. What is lacking in our society is vision, commitment, and will to make the Constitution work for all.

I never seen something like this before in all my travels to, and observations of other societies where people are throwing up their hands and cowering behind an instrument they paint as ineffective, when those who are driving the calls have not read this document, don’t understand it, and have a personal hatred for the man, Forbes Burnham, under whose leadership it was established.

They regurgitate or are victims of the propaganda, and so despise the instrument. Some have taken this ridiculousness further by arguing the referendum was rigged, so out with the 1980 Constitution, but they want the constitution given to us at independence by the British when the people were not even given the opportunity to cast a ballot on it.

In their personally imposed torment these proponents are holding society hostage, refusing to see that should attention be paid to the Constitution in its present form and demands made of the politicians to act in concert with it, this society could be further along the development continuum than it is. It is time to stop misleading the society, while demands must be made of those who call for scrapping the constitution or reforming it to represent their position by being truthful and constructive.

We the people must be unflinching in holding them to account, for like the self-serving politicians they do this country a grave disservice and are retarding our development.

 

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis 

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