PNC wants no Parliament break this year

by Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
July 28, 1999

THE Government is looking at a proposal from the main opposition People's National Congress (PNC) to forego Parliamentary recess this year, so that recommendations for change to the country's 1980 constitution can be considered.

Leader of the PNC Mr Desmond Hoyte yesterday told reporters that he had written Parliamentary Affairs Minister and Leader of the House, Mr Reepu Daman Persaud, making the suggestion.

Persaud confirmed receipt of Hoyte's letter and said it will have to be considered.

"It is now necessary for Parliament to adopt as quickly as possible a methodology and procedures for arriving at decisions on the (Constitutions Reform) Commission's recommendations, so that the legal draftsmen could write the new Constitution, and all necessary arrangements be put in place, in a timely fashion, to allow the post reform general elections..." Hoyte told reporters.

Persaud last week promised speedy consideration of the Constitution Reform Commission Report laid in parliament last Thursday.

The 20-man Commission, sworn in on January 22 by President Janet Jagan, was given a July 17 deadline to present its report to Parliament, as provided for in two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) brokered "peace" agreements signed last year between the governing People's Progressive Party Civic (PPP/Civic) and the main opposition PNC.

The agreements were signed by President Jagan and PNC leader, Mr Desmond Hoyte, amid rising tensions and violence sparked by anti-government street protests.

Fresh elections are projected by 2001, 18 months after the presentation of the report.

Hoyte said he was satisfied the report was handed in on time.

"From the very outset, the People's National Congress had made it clear that it would not accept any deviation from that deadline. The party is therefore pleased that, despite the efforts by some to delay the Commission's work, and the skepticism of some others, the Commission was able to complete its work by the due date," he said.

Hoyte has also proposed that representatives of the Parliamentary parties should meet urgently to discuss a methodology and procedures for implementing the recommendations of the Commission.

"We would expect Parliament to work with a sense of purpose (and) in good faith, to get the necessary work done," the PNC leader said.

Meanwhile, the opposition Working People's Alliance (WPA), the main arm of the Parliamentary Alliance For Guyana (AFG), said the Constitution Commission did not do what was expected of it.

"There was a splendid chance of crafting a Constitution which took into account Guyana's recurring problems of holding together. The Commission, weighted as it was, recognised only recommendations which could claim not to be new, not to be original, whereas Guyana needed an original structure suited to its problem," a statement from the party said.

"All the proposals which tampered with the form of the state, basing the argument on the nature of our divisions and conflicts, were thrown out of the window or treated as quaint and curious by Euro-centred descendants of enslaved Africans and indentured Indians."

"Despite the inclusiveness promised on the basis of what the PNC recommended, there is the one-party cabinet defended by both the PPP (Civic) and the PNC, the same two major political agencies which have been the centre of confrontations for nearly half a century."

The WPA expressed disappointment that three main recommendations proposed for re-arranging State power were

"booted out" by the Commission.

However, Hoyte said he was satisfied the Commission did the best it could, arguing that he doesn't think its work suffered because of the deadline.

The PNC leader said he doesn't believe "any Constitution" can address problems of ethnic voting.

"What we have to do with a Constitution is to create conditions for people to feel involved," he said.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples