Constitution Reform body to retain Executive Presidency
But will revise powers of Head of State

by Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
July 9, 1999

THIRTEEN members of the Constitution Reform Commission have voted to retain an Executive President in the new Constitution. However, the immunities and powers of the Head of State will be revised by the body.

The vote was carried after being put a second time by Chairman of the 20-man Commission, Mr Ralph Ramkarran.

The first vote failed when only 11 of 18 members voted for retaining the Executive President.

Following up arguments which started at the Tuesday meeting of the Commission, Ramkarran outlined four options which came out of the public hearings, concerning the type of Presidency, and two were added at the request of two separate Commissioners.

Those voting at the second round in favour of an Executive President were: Mr Aubrey Collins, The United Force (TUF); Mr Bernard DeSantos (People's Progressive Party Civic (PPP/Civic); Mr Frank Anthony (PPP/Civic), Ms Philomena Sahoye-Shury (PPP/Civic); Mr Reepu Daman Persaud (PPP/Civic); Mr Haslyn Parris, People's National Congress (PNC); Ramkarran (PPP/Civic); Ms Anande Trotman, Women's Organisation; Mr Ramdial Bhookmohan, Private Sector Commission (PSC); Mr Keith Halley, Christian representative; Mr Faizal Jaffarally, youth representative; and Mr Vidyanand Persaud, Hindu representative.

Those against the vote were: Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, Alliance for Guyana (AFG); Mr Miles Fitzpatrick, Guyana Bar Association; and Mr Shahabudin McDoom, Muslim representative. Mr Vincent Alexander (PNC) and Mr Deryck Bernard (PNC) declined to vote.

After the motion was carried, Persaud then moved that the President should serve no more than two consecutive terms at a time.

However, Ramkarran moved an amendment that a candidate can only have one shot at the Presidency, and cannot come back after having lost an election.

He agreed though that the President can serve a maximum of two terms, but no more.

Both Persaud's motion and Ramkarran's amendment were voted inconclusive because members spent some time trying to determine whether someone, who served two consecutive terms, should be allowed to return.

The Commissioners rejected proposals for the President to be elected by a majority vote.

Yesterday, Dr Roopnaraine was to have submitted suggestions he had on a revision of the President's powers and immunities.

The Commission has also reversed a decision it moved to prevent Commonwealth members from voting at Guyana's elections, after research by Collins, showed that this arrangement existed in other Caribbean nations.

The meeting agreed that the clause was probably written in the Constitution out of a reciprocal arrangement and therefore it would be imprudent to remove it.

The Commission is also expected to vote on which commissions should be written into the new Constitution, and also, the systems of Government and Parliament that should be included.

At the public hearings earlier this year, suggestions were made for the establishment of 36 new Commissions in addition to the five existing ones. But members agreed that some of these could be eliminated as a result of duplication.

A paper, which was presented to members by a sub-committee of the Commission, is to be perused this week.

The Commission agreed to have meetings throughout the weekend, in an effort to conclude its work by the July 16 deadline.

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