Expert identifies some flaws in Guyana's constitution

by Alim Hassim
Stabroek News
June 12, 1999

Among the major flaws in the current Guyana constitution is the provision for political party leaders to appoint their members of parliament from party lists, and for the President of the country to appoint the Minority Leader.

This is according to Professor Theodor Hanf, Director of the Arnold-Bergstrasser Institute for Social Research in Germany, who was here for consultations on the current move to reform the Guyanese constitution.

Addressing reporters at a press conference at the Park Hotel before he left the country on Thursday, the professor avoided getting into descriptions of the political system in Guyana.

However, when asked about his views on problems with the existing constitution, he pointed to areas such as the extreme concentration of power in the executive presidency of the country. This, Professor Hanf stated, was not the best system.

While there was some degree of devolution of power in the form of regions and municipalities in Guyana, Hanf said the power of these units was limited since their resources were in the hands of the central government.

Speaking of the problem of party leaders appointing parliamentarians, the professor stated that such appointments were not good for the independence of the parliamentarians. Parliamentarians should be able to act on their own convictions and whatever they did was owed not to the party, but to those who elected them.

The professor reiterated the fact that a democracy must be built on a system of strong checks and balances.

He said in a society like Guyana's the political system should seek to ensure co-existence; it should promote a system where everyone participated.

In a society where groups of people saw themselves as different from other groups of people, he argued, fear was a normal element for some of those groups.

Hence, the political system, he advised, should be designed in such a way that fear could be alleviated. Regarding the concentration of power, he said that if power was concentrated in one place, there was a danger of people who were not of the same ethnic grouping where the power was concentrated being threatened.

What was needed, Professor Hanf stated, was for decisions not only to be made at the national level, but at the regional level. There was also need for an independent judiciary and a bill of rights should be enshrined in the constitution.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples