Constitution Commission to recommend deleting
'co-operative' from title of Guyana

Stabroek News
June 25, 1999

The Constitution Reform Commission is to recommend that Guyana be known as the Republic of Guyana and insert a reference to God in the preamble to the constitution.

It will also recommend retention of the National Anthem and the Golden Arrowhead as symbols of nationhood as well as the inclusion of a simple description of the flag shorn of its heraldic references. The commission also agreed to include the National Pledge as one of the symbols which the constitution imposes on Guyanese an obligation to respect.

These were some of the issues on which the commission arrived at a consensus at meetings it held earlier this week to decide on its recommendation on aspects of the constitution it felt should be retained or amended. The commissioners have also decided that while dropping "cooperative" from the description of the State of Guyana, they would recommend the inclusion in the preamble of a reference to the principle of cooperativism which is necessary if Guyana is to survive and prosper.

Also, in relation to the preamble, the commission will recommend that it be written in simple language and that the reference to the deity should be in a similar manner to that which is found in the South African constitution. The commission also agreed that the statement on youth which was presented to the commission by a group of young people earlier this month should be included in the constitution as presented.

At the request of the legal experts, the commission agreed that it should be given time to study Chapter II of the constitution to see which of the rights stated there should be made justiciable and included in the fundamental rights section.

On advice received from local legal experts-- Professors Keith Massiah and Harold Lutchman -- the commission reached agreement on including in the constitution the principle of "prompt and adequate compensation" for land compulsorily acquired.

In a related issue of compulsory acquisition, Prof Massiah explained to the commission that Article 142(2)(b)(i) provides for the protection of Amerindian lands rather than expropriation. But he conceded that its paternalistic intent could run into conflict with the increasing demand by Amerindians for autonomy in the conduct of the affairs affecting their communities.

Also on the advice of the legal experts the commission has decided that the Racial Hostility Act (Chapter 23:01) should be looked at to see if it was adequate to enforce the right of the individual not to be exposed to hate speeches.

The Racial Hostility Act provides that "a person shall be guilty of an offence if he willfully excites or attempts to excite hostility or ill-will against any person on the grounds of their or his race." The publisher of any publication which carries the offensive remarks is also liable for prosecution unless it can be proven that it was not for the want of due care on the publisher's part that the remarks were published.

Conviction carries a penalty of $1000 and two years imprisonment as well as a five-year disqualification from being elected to the National Assembly or membership of any local government authority; appointment as an agent of any candidate standing for election to the National Assembly or any local government authority; appointment to any office, paid or unpaid, in any political party, any office which the President or Minister has the power to make such appointments; or to any managerial or editorial position with any media organisation.

Also with regard to extending the prohibition of discrimination to private enterprises, the experts pointed out that the necessary remedy could be found in the provisions of the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples