Opposition parties in Guyana have great veto power by Fadia Gafoor
Guyana Chronicle
September 9, 2002

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GOOD governance, constitutional reform, power sharing, and inclusivity are concepts being used freely in these times. Most Guyanese hear these terms at least once a day through the various forms of media. So naturally, with the repetitions some of us are going to begin to believe that Guyanese are deprived of their constitutional rights, that there is no form of democratic governance and that the opposition parties have no power whatsoever.

But if we start to look at the facts, we will come to the realisation that through the constitutional reform process, the opposition parties in parliament stand to have more veto power than any other parliamentary system in the Caribbean.

Recently, Haslyn Parris, Ralph Ramkarran and Rupert Roopnarine, who were part of the constitutional reform committee representing their respective political parties, made an urgent call for the implementation of the constitutional reform recommendations. This is indeed significant for Guyana.

Coming out of the Herdmanston Accord, the constitutional reform process was an inclusive process, which saw participation from all aspects of civil society and the political parties. Recommendations from the constitutional reform process recognised the importance for all to be involved in the decision making process of the State and thus, caused a number of important alterations of the Constitution to enhance participatory democracy.

The recommendations to establish a number of Commissions including the Ethnic Relations Commission, the Human Rights Commission, Women and Gender Equality Commission, the Indigenous Commission and the Rights of the Child Commission demonstrate a genuine recognition of the problems faced by Guyanese today.

Of equal importance is the fact that the composition of these commissions is decided through two-thirds support in the National Assembly, thus, making them bi-partisan. The commissions are independent bodies with sanctioning powers, thus making them a powerful force within their individual areas to be reckoned with. So where is the unfairness in that? Where is the exclusivity?

It is surprising to hear recent cries for a new constitution by a small section of society when only recently Guyana underwent an expensive and inclusive constitution reform process. One can only conclude that those who call for a new constitution have not read the existing recommendations and the favourable form of governance that they propose.

The recommendations are in the favour of every Guyanese and they even seek to ensure through Article 119 (a) i.e. the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform that the constitution be reviewed continuously to make proposals if necessary for Constitutional Reform.

What more as a people do we want from our Constitution, the highest documentation of our fundamental rights as an independent nation?