first_imgDear Editor,It is heartening to read that a United Nations (UN) team is in Guyana exploring how Constitution reform could be realised. Constitutional reform is long overdue and the team should push the three main parties into supporting reform that reduces powers of the Central Government and empowers citizens and civil society as in the developed countries. I am not hopeful of reforms happening because of broken promises by succeeding Governments. In addition, all three main parties – the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) – are opposed to it although publicly they speak the language of reform and people empowerment.Since the parties say they support constitutional reform, let them walk the talk. Let the parties demonstrate their seriousness to reform by agreeing to the establishment of a committee or commission, comprising of equal number of members recommended from Opposition and Government, and some by civil society and the UN body. And let them start work immediately with the UN as mediators. This is necessary because as happened in the past, once the UN body leaves, the proposed reform committee goes into hibernation as no party truly wants reforms. They all see themselves as winning the next election and governing solely. They don’t want to share powers. The PPP complains the PNC will rig the next election. But shared governance will be a disincentive to steal votes as happened in every election. So PPP should advocate constitutional reforms for shared governance.The parties speak of reforms only when in Opposition, but once in Government, they effectuate no measures to promote reform. It is a fact that the Burnham Constitution was not approved by the population, and as such is unacceptable. A proper Constitution in which the people provide an input on what they think is best for the country should be constructed and approved in a free and fair referendum. The population should be given choices on a Constitution. And any final Constitution should guarantee a multi-party Government with shared powers among those parties elected to the National Assembly.Everywhere I travelled in Guyana on recent trips over the last several years, people are frustrated with the Government at the central and local level. They have virtually no faith in their governments or political leaders who only make promises and deliver nothing. They endorse constitutional reform to empower their communities and reduce powers of the Central Government. They want meaningful changes such as separate elections to elect a President (directly by the population in a majority vote) and National Assembly members or that the President should be elected by the Assembly in a majority vote. Where no candidate gets a majority, there should be a run-off election between the top two contenders. There must be term limits and capping of presidential powers so that he/she gets approval of major decisions from the Assembly similar to the US Constitution.A multi-party Government is critical with each party having control over defined ministries and Government agencies. Guyana historically has one party government with a client-patron relationship, ethnic chauvinism, and discrimination against non-supporters. And since the party is race based, by extension we have one race Government. Such a political system can’t work in Guyana where half of the population is excluded from governance. This leads to inefficiency and woeful lack of productivity as half of the population is excluded.As has shown over the last 18 months, the coalition Government has not brought any change to ethnic politics. Worse, it has led to cries of racial and political victimisation. Productivity has declined and along with it all the other problems associated with declining revenues. Guyana needs a multiethnic, multiparty Government representing the interests of the varied groups so no one can cry exclusion and that will encourage all to become productive citizens.Since the parties are opposed to reform or distrust each other on the process of reforms and the final product of proposed reforms, then the visiting UN team should pressure them into accepting international mediators or the establishment of an international commission appointed by the UN as the drafters of a new Constitution – one that will be prepared after consulting communities throughout the country. Such a Constitution must lead to an inclusive government with limited powers and with most powers be given to the people in local government. Let the people govern themselves as in most developed countries. We also need a strong civil society and mechanisms of accountability and criminal prosecutions of those found to violate the laws or are corrupt. As the Guyana case has shown since 1957, one party, one race government cannot work.Yours faithfully,Dr Vishnu Bisramlast_img read more