The people should have the ultimate power to decide constitutional amendments

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to Mr. Hydar Ally’s missive `Term limits consistent with norms of good and accountable governance’ (SN Jun 29). I totally agree and I endorse term limits. But the issue before the CCJ was not whether there should be term limits. The issue was whether the people are sovereign over parliament or whether parliament is sovereign over the people. To make it even more simple to understand the issue, the case was whether term limits could be approved by parliament or must be approved by the people. The Guyana courts ruled that people are sovereign and must approve term limits in a referendum. The CCJ overturns that ruling granting sovereignty to the parliament. The matter could have been settled very easily by holding a referendum rather than spending tens of millions of dollars on legal fees and other costs. The people could have been empowered to decide the issue.

As experience around the world has shown, including Zimbabwe to which Ally makes reference, government must never be trusted. People should have the ultimate power and not their governments or the legislature (parliament).

In countries where people are empowered, the countries do well. For comparison, in the US where hundreds of thousands of diaspora Guyanese live, the US Supreme Court ruled in precedent setting cases that the people are sovereign. The US Congress (parliament) cannot make amendments to the constitution on its own. Many attempts to amend the constitution by Congress failed. The Supreme Court would have none of it with the people’s role. 

Why can’t our government allow Guyanese voters to decide on constitutional amendments or in altogether drafting a new constitution that addresses our unique situation including enshrining term limits?

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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