Future Notes

Constitutional reform: final lessons from America

Last week I argued that since the transfer of government to the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) after the March 2020 elections, both it and A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) have been promising constitutional and electoral reforms to prevent a repeat of the allegedly criminal events associated with attempts to manipulate those elections.

Constitutional reform: first lessons from America

Since the elections debacle largely between the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government came somewhat to an end with the transfer of authority to the former, the new regime has not stopped promising constitutional and electoral changes to prevent what it deems a blatant effort by APNU+AFC to steal the election.

Constitutional reform: campaign financing

By Section 108 of the Representation of the People Act, the election agent of each party/group of candidates must forward to the Chief Election Officer a declaration of their party’s expenses by 35 days following the declaration of the result of the national/regional elections.

Constitutional reform: public service pay and independent judiciary

In about 2012, after lambasting the ‘Cadillac lifestyle’ of the PPP/C regime, focusing upon the salaries, pension and other tax free benefits to which former presidents were entitled, the opposition in the hung parliament that resulted from the 2011 national elections sponsored and passed a resolution in the National Assembly calling for substantial reductions in those benefits and promised to make its recommended changes if it ever came to government.

Constitutional reform: the Diaspora

Given the decades-long effort by governments to effectively organise and use the talent, finances and other resources of the Guyanese diaspora, my attention was recently drawn to an October 2020 study, ‘The Guyanese Diaspora’, done by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which provided some good information, comments and recommendations that should be of interest (https://csis-website-prod.s3.

Constitutional reform: subsidiary devolution

Desmond Hoyte was correct when in his 1980 ‘State Paper on the Re-organisation of the Local Government System in Guyana’, he claimed that the worst defects of the extant system were that it was not informed by a ‘coherent philosophy’, but his effort at local government reform demonstrated that adherence to a coherent philosophy such as liberal democracy, Marxism/Leninism or cooperative socialism, must also be rooted in an adequate understanding of the nature of a given society if it is to succeed. 

Constitutional reform: a duty to care for prisoners

When seventeen prisoners lost their lives in a fire at the Camp Street prison in March 2016, it occurred to me that society had failed in its duty of care to the prison population and I was not surprised when a few weeks ago, prisoners at the Lusignan prison were protesting their conditions in this era of the COVID-19.

Constitutional reform: prorogation

Over the last few weeks the major political parties have been speaking again of the need for constitutional reform, and generally the pace of change is so rapid that the only way to keep abreast is to consistently collaborate and change.

Constitutional reform: the budget process

Not for the first time the various requests for information about the reasoning underlying many  decision in the 2020 budget suggest that if there is one aspect of government business that needs to be reformed it is the manner in which budgets are conceived, constructed, examined, passed and monitored by the general public, stakeholders and parliament.

Constitutional reform: the speakership

One of the advantages of the parliamentary aspect of Guyana’s semi-presidential political system is that it could foster consensus in ethnically divided and conflict-ridden situations (Lijphart, Arend (1984) ‘Democracies: Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Government in Twenty- One Countries,’ Yale University Press).

Constitutional reform: dismantling the ‘Burnham’ constitution

Forty years after Forbes Burnham radically reformed the independence constitution and twenty years after that, the ‘Burnham’ constitution was reformed by the PPP/C government, why is the present constitution still being disparagingly referred to as the ‘Burnham’ constitution that needs to be scrapped? 

Constitutional reform: presidential immunities

‘It may indeed be possible to conduct the Presidency from a jail cell:’ so said the late Professor Monroe Freedman, one of the United States’ leading experts on legal ethics, upon considering the possibility of indicting and sentencing the president (https://wustllawreview.org/essays/

President Ali: show us

Here we go again, a change from one ethnic government to the next, and we expect better results when, by its very nature,  such a transfer of power does not have the potential to deliver national unity and equitable social progress. 

Still fiddling with majoritarianism

On my assessment, given its legal context, President David Granger’s statement that he will accept nothing less than the counting of the broadly defined ‘valid votes’ of the March 2020 elections to arrive at a winner threatens to take the elections quarrel to another constitutional/unconstitutional level.

More in the mortar than the pestle

Stephen Kinzer of Brown University USA, who has chronicled a century of USA regime change and whose video has recently been doing the rounds on social media in Guyana, claimed that the lesson his research teaches is that Americans love democracy when it throws up leaders that do their bidding.

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