Constitution committee refers recommendations to drafting team

Guyana Chronicle
April 13, 2000

THE Oversight Committee on Constitutional Reform has completed a review of a section of its work dealing with fundamental rights, and has referred some 50 recommendations to the team of legal drafting personnel.

The rights/recommendations were converted into draft briefs by a task force headed by leader of The United Force (TUF), Mr Manzoor Nadir.

Among the proposed new clauses for a reformed Guyana Constitution are equal rights of all children, whether or not born in wedlock, and equal access to education in both state and private schools, required to provide curricula reflecting cultural diversity and technological education.

The oversight committee which met yesterday in the Parliament Library, also discussed draft Ethnic Relations Commission legislation.

However, the task force headed by Dr Leslie Ramsammy, requested further time to consider proposals which were submitted by Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, representative of the Alliance for Guyana in the National Assembly, to amend the composition and function of the proposed Elections Commission, an official said.

Like the composition of the Elections Commission Bill, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) is a fast-track item among reform measures of the new Constitution.

The political parties and civil society represented on the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) had recognised that ethnic insecurity should be addressed as a matter of priority.

The government has established a task force on race relations under the chairmanship of Bishop Randolph George. But a race relations provision under the constitution for a broad-based commission is seen as an advanced safeguard against discrimination on racial grounds.

At yesterday's sitting, OSC Chairman and Minister of Information, Mr Moses Nagamootoo said he had at that sitting received a letter from Roopnaraine which questions his right to parliamentary privilege and exploited same to express a grouse over his chairmanship of the Committee.

Nagamootoo advised the meeting that its members should not allow the "cut and thrust" of debates during consideration of the National Budget to impair their proper functioning at the level of the Constitutional Committee.

He reiterated that he and Mr Haslyn Parris of the People's National Congress (PNC) have opted to function above partisan interest while they provide leadership to the oversight committee.

In his letter, Roopnaraine quoted remarks by the minister during the budget debate in Parliament, that he (Roopnaraine) had gained a seat in Parliament on the basis of "leftover votes ".

He posited that as a result he was fearful that he would not enjoy "protection" under the minister's chairmanship of the Oversight Committee.

The OSC which meets again tomorrow for further consideration of the Race Relations proposals, was also told by Nagamootoo that Acting President Sam Hinds had on Tuesday given his approval to the Elections Commission, which paved the way for the appointment of an Opposition Leader and selection of a new seven-member Elections Commission.