Last Updated on Monday, 14 August 2023, 18:25 by Denis Chabrol
Well-known Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes on Sunday recommended meaningful involvement of Guyanese representatives in political decision-making through supermajorities in order to force the opposition and government to reach consensus.
Mr Hughes, who recently made a presentation to the United Nations Permanent forum on people of African descent on behalf of the non-governmental International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G), told the Cuffy250 2023 forum on the State of African Guyanese that such an approach is needed due to an almost non-existent chance of national unity or trust.
“The concept of simple majority must be replaced by the requirements of super majorities, so at least we ensure that most voices are heard before major decisions are undertaken. An executed incentive under these new arrangements would be to achieve consensus, not what currently operates under the guise of democracy,” he said.
Mr. Hughes also proposed that supermajorities be extended to parliamentary committees, against the backdrop of his contention that Guyana’s constitution has either outlived its usefulness or incapable of delivering benefits to Guyanese in an equitable manner.
According to Mr Hughes, a former Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC) political party, the 65-seat National Assembly acts as a “rubber stamp” of the executive “in the most toxic of circumstances.” He observed that the leadership of communities never meet in a society that is electorally divided along ethnic lines. The majority of Afro-Guyanese back the People’s National Congress Reform-led coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+AFC and the People’s Progressive Party Civic is largely supported by Indo-Guyanese since the split of the PPP in 1955.
While Guyana’s previous leaders have all been “committed to the idea of unity”, Mr Hughes said that in reality there has never been a period of unity since independence or possibly before and the possibility of that happening in the near future was highly unlikely. We take it as a fact that we are not united, and we have never been united and I want to proffer that the prospect of unity in the near future and in the medium future is a very, very dim prospect,” he said.
Dismissing Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo’s long-held position that there needs to be trust between the two major political parties, the Attorney-at-Law drew on the analogy of the need f0r business contracts as a starting point of trust. “If we start from the premise that trust has never been present and is unlikely to be present in the short and medium term, then let’s start to begin to construct the constitution which is not premised on trust. We should perhaps start with the principles of the rule of law, quality, equity and justice as the systems which underpin the Constitution.,” he added.
He said Guyana’s constitutional democracy permits parties to be elected every five years to discriminate against others and so the term should be cut to four years in a multi-ethnic society where there is mistrust and distrust. “Five years is too long a time perceiving and justices real or perceived to be allowed to fester,” he said.
The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has consistently over the decades proposed constitutional reform to facilitate executive power sharing. During the latter years of the PNCR’s leadership under Desmond Hoyte, he had supported internal calls for shared governance. Prior to then President Forbes Burnham’s death in August 1985, the PNCR and the PPP had held talks about the formation of a government of national unity but they were aborted after Mr Hoyte took office.