Population must force constitutional reform

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to the missive from stakeholders in RISE captioned `The impetus for constitutional reform has been lost’ (SN Feb 4). Glad to read RISE is refocusing on this important issue that is so critical for good governance in our country where the parties have shown no regard for their supporters. It has been on the back burner for the last six months. So where are the parties and their supporters really on this issue? The people are in favour of reforms to strengthen the rule of law and have good governance but the parties are not. And RISE must force the issue.

The history of parties championing constitutional reform in Guyana is pathetic and frustrating. We have a constitution that is totally irrelevant to our political reality and that has been an obstacle to socio-economic progress and national development. It is a very sad day for us. Some fifty-one years of governance after independence, we have not been able to undertake democratic constitutional reform to empower the population or to share political power in an ethnically fragile nation crying for some kind of inclusive government.

There is no political wisdom whatsoever in what the parties seemed to have done over the last fifty one years or forty years since the Burnham fraudulent referendum to create the present constitution. So, we remain in socio-economic doldrums of despair and hopelessness.

As has been the norm in Guyana, all governments have been shown to resist constitutional change that purports to curb political power or excesses or that will undermine their re-election.  And no government wants to share power (with other parties or even with the population), but when in opposition a party champions constitutional power sharing and makes all kinds of promises of empowering the people. Once in power, they forget their promises and their efforts are concentrated on how to retain power.

In Guyana, the opposition PPP is not enthusiastic about constitutional change or power sharing. The party’s leadership often queries what is wrong with the constitution – never mind that it was not  approved in a free and fair referendum. The PPP sees itself returning to office in 2020 even though it “lost” two consecutive elections. So it will not support constitutional reform at power sharing. And the coalition PNC (APNU)-AFC has lost interest in constitutional change because it feels it is guaranteed re-election.

Constitutional reform is important for all three parties and other parties as well and the nation at large. Since the parties competing for political power are uninterested in reforms to empower the people or share power among all the elected parties, the population should take the matter into their own hands. The population must force constitutional reform. Governments have shown that they will only respond to a demand for change when their back is against the wall.

Last July, when RISE was launched and threatened a nationwide campaign to advocate constitutional reform, the Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, to pull the rug from under the feet of RISE, quickly announced that the government would proceed apace with constitutional. Since then, RISE has been asleep not mentioning anything about reform, and the government pushed the issue of constitutional change off its radar. Politicians seem to have a philosophy that the more you fool the people and the more you confuse them, the better it is, and they will forget your earlier promises. The people won’t allow it this time around. They want constitutional reform against the wishes of the leadership of their political parties.

It is heartening to read this letter from RISE that constitutional reform is not off its radar. Don’t be surprised if the PM announces within days that constitutional reform is on the table. And it is hoped that RISE will not return to its slumber.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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