Guyana takes steps towards constitutional reform

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 July 2017, 16:02 by Denis Chabrol

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo

The Guyana government on Thursday took a major step in triggering the constitutional reform process- one of its major election campaign promises- by tabling draft legislation in the National Assembly for establishing a 15-member “constitutional reform consultative commission”.

The draft law was referred to the parliamentary standing committee on constitutional reform for consideration and report.

“An act to establish a Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission to assist the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform in its work by conducting public consultations with and receiving submission from the people of Guyana for the Committee, to provide for its membership, its terms of references and for other connected purposes,” states the Bill.

100 consultations, according to the Bill, are to be held countrywide with most slated for Regions Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Five (Mahaica-West Berbice) and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).

The Bill, which was introduced to the House by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, allows the President to appoint two constitutional law experts, one retired job and one law tutor after conducting consultations as he sees fit.

Each of the 11 other members will be nominated each from the parliamentary parties, trade union movement, organisations representing Guyanese youths, Guyana Bar Association, Guyana Association of Women Lawyers; Christian, Muslim and Hindu organisations, organisations representing Guyanese women and the National Toshaos’ Council.

The Bill states that if any entity fails to make a nomination, the President shall appoint a member to represent that entity after due consultation.

The six criteria for selecting membership of the Commission shall include experience, knowledge, knowledge of Guyana’s constitution, commitment, academic expertise and practical expertise.

The Commission shall be tasked with assisting the Standing Committee in the Committee’s review of how effective is Guyana’s constitution working and ascertain the views from Guyanese through consultations in the 10 administrative regions and further consultations as well as receive, consider and evaluate the submission from Guyanese.

The Consultative Commission on Constitutional Reform will be funded by the Consolidated Fund and donations and contributions from international agencies.

Earlier this month, an incorporated pressure group called Reform, Inform, Sustain Educate (RISE) Guyana was established to demand that constitutional reform be put on the front-burner. That organisation also intends to carry out its own consultations countrywide.

The 1980 Constitution was reformed and the changes enshrined in the revised supreme law in 2001.