Select committee to consider report today
--presentation to Parliament set for Nov. 4

Stabroek News
October 29, 1999

The Special Select Committee chaired by Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Reepu Daman Persaud, on Wednesday wrapped up its consideration of the recommendations of the Constitution Reform Commission (CRC). It accepted in principle the recommendation of the CRC on the electoral system but did not reach agreement on how it would be implemented, referring that question to the National Assembly together with the recommendation of the PNC that an expert should be retained to advise on the matter.

The recommendation called for the electoral system to be based on proportional representation while at the same time guaranteeing geographical and gender representativeness.

The Select Committee will meet today after the adjournment of the National Assembly to consider its report. Today's meeting of the National Assembly is to sanction financial papers approving the arbitration awards to public servants and teachers. Increases to members of the Disciplined Services are also to be approved for payment.

The committee's report is due to be presented to Speaker of the National Assembly, Derek Jagan, on Monday and laid in the National Assembly on November 4.

At Wednesday's session, under Persaud's guidance, the committee approved the recommendations on the establishment of additional constitutional commissions as proposed by the CRC, national security, aspects relating to the presidency on which it had deferred decisions, the judiciary, the appointment of the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice, the right and duty to work as it relates to the public service, and the electoral system below the level of the regions.

Among the new constitutional commissions approved by the Select Committee were those for Disciplined Services and Human Rights. The committee, at an earlier meeting had approved recommendations for the establishment of commissions on Public Tender, Ethnic Relations, Women and Gender Equality, the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child.

The committee's consideration of the recommendations on National Security was guided by Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj, who had been tasked with doing some research on the issue. As suggested by Gajraj, the committee endorsed the CRC recommendations after considerable debate, particularly on the issue as to whether the definition of aggression against the state should not be extended to include other acts of aggression, as suggested by Raphael Trotman, one of the three PNC representatives. The Alliance for Guyana representative, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, felt that it should be restricted to armed aggression, fearing that in the hands of a malevolent administration the provisions could be misused.

Returning to decisions about the presidency which it had deferred, the committee approved the CRC recommendations that no person who had held the office of President for two consecutive terms could assume it again under any circumstances.

The committee also agreed in relation to the judiciary that it should be independent and insulated from executive, political or any other influence. They agreed too to approve the recommendation calling for the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice to be appointed by a consensual mechanism. However, they left it to the legal draftsmen to determine how that mechanism would be designed to ensure that the persons appointed would be widely accepted.

As far as the decision on the type of electoral system to be used for elections below the level of the region was concerned, the committee agreed that it would be addressed in a White Paper on local government reform.

Another issue which generated much debate was that of the rights of detained persons, with members including PPP/Civic representative, Bernard De Santos, SC, and Trotman expressing concern about the abuse of the police of the detained person's rights. As a consequence it was agreed that the Judges' Rules would be elevated to constitutional provisions and the committee would recommend that the requisite steps be taken to ensure that the rights of detained persons were strictly observed.

At the end of the meeting Persaud thanked committee members for their cooperation noting that while the debate was intense at times all their decisions had been reached by consensus. He said that their work had sent a positive signal to the country that the parties could sit down and work out their differences in the interest of Guyana.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples