Parliament to proceed with reforming Constitution

by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
September 19, 2000

THE way is now clear for the National Assembly to proceed with the necessary legislation to reform aspects of the 1980 Constitution.

This is as a result of the unanimous approval yesterday of a motion seeking the adoption of two volumes - Volume 1, Sections 1 to 7 and 9 and Volume II, Section 8 - containing the final report of the Oversight Committee on Constitutional Reform (OSC).

The motion, tabled by Minister of Agriculture and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Reepu Daman Persaud, received the full support of all four political parties in Parliament.

Tabling the motion seeking the support of his Opposition colleagues, Persaud noted that the process had the input of members of the National Assembly, civil society as well as organisations and members who presented papers or gave oral evidence.

According to the minister, the consensuality which prevailed throughout was commendable and ought to be encouraged.

According to him the creaming and crafting of a constitution was a "tedious, complex and demanding process".

The report had its origin in the Sixth Parliament when the process started and continued with the establishment of the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC) Special Select Committee, and finally an Oversight Committee.

The OSC final report which was handed over to Persaud on August 22 last, was the eighth report to be submitted by the committee and represented the culmination of its work.

Persaud noted that of the 171 recommendations submitted by the CRC and the Special Select Committee, 163 constitutional drafts were prepared and require the attention of the Assembly.

Of the 163 drafts, 94 require a simple majority in the House to be passed, while 68 will have to have a two-thirds majority.

They are all contained in Volume 8, among which is the issue of `Meaningful Consultation' in which it is stated that the National Assembly, "in pursuit of the evolution of an inclusionary democracy", shall establish by law a commission consisting of representatives of the community, non-governmental organisations and political parties.

It adds that "the guide, which shall be monitored continually by the Parliament Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform with a view to assessing its effectiveness, shall by resolution of the National Assembly be supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all elected members and have the force of the law the observance of which is required in the process of national decision."

On the issue of `Election' where under the old constitution it was stated that 53 members of the National Assembly shall be elected in accordance with the system of Proportional Representation, under the reformed constitution, it states that such number of members of the National Assembly, as determined by the National Assembly, shall be elected.

And on the issue of Local Government elections, the reformed constitution makes provision for Parliament to "establish a Local Government Commission", with the power to deal with as its sees fit "all matters related to the regulation and staffing of local government organs and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs."

Also, "the electoral system in respect of local democratic organs below the regional democratic councils, shall provide for the involvement and representation of individuals and voluntary groups in addition to political parties and accountability to the electors."

Speaking on behalf of the Opposition People's National Congress (PNC) was Mr Lance Carberry; Mr Manzoor Nadir for The United Force (TUF) and Dr Rupert Roopnaraine for the Alliance for Guyana (AFG). (More stories tomorrow).

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