GHRA launches proposal that paves way for return to rule of law

Guyana Chronicle
December 14, 2002

Related Links: Articles on Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform
Letters Menu Archival Menu

THE Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) on Wednesday launched a proposal calling for the creation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform (PSCCR) as the formal mechanism appropriate to paving the way for a return to the rule of law.

The GHRA in its comprehensive statement, noted that the current crisis in Guyana is rooted in the fact that relations between the major parties have rendered all formal avenues for resolution of problems inoperable.

It noted that Parliament does not function: Statutory Bodies such as the Teachers, Judicial, Public Service and the Police Commissions have not been appointed, and Constitutional Commissions to address Human Rights, Ethnic Relations, Women, Children and Indigenous issues have never been implemented. The GHRA observed that all of these mechanisms are formal devices to ritualise and eventually resolve disputes and conflicts.

In order to avoid inauguration of the PSCCR becoming embroiled in existing disputes, GHRA is calling for a session of Parliament in which inauguration of the Committee is the sole order of business.

It listed the summary advantages of the PSCCR as:

** Reinforcing public confidence by a return to the Rule of Law

** Paving the way for a full return to Parliamentary Government

** Returning responsibility for governance to elected representatives

** Implementing approved reforms

** Allowing involvement of all required expertise, and providing a forum for consultation on the shape a new political structure should take. The human rights body said, too, that the PSCCR is a formal mechanism with clear procedures for decision-making and implementation, and it also brings political and civil society together in one open transparent forum.

The GHRA release said experience has demonstrated that informal, extra-parliamentary dialogues have a low probability of success, for the simple reason that, informal mechanisms require a much higher level of mutual trust between parties than formal mechanisms. Informal processes are more vulnerable to continuous challenge, delay and capriciousness.

The release contended that, despite the best intentions, the Inter-Party Dialogue and Social Partners Initiative have both suffered from such problems.

It presented for reference, the text of article119A, which reads:

The National Assembly shall establish a Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Reform for the purpose of continually reviewing the effectiveness of the working of the Constitution and making periodic reports thereon to the Assembly with proposals for reform as necessary. To assist in its work, the committee shall have powers to co- opt experts or enlist the aid of persons of appropriate expertise, whether or not such experts are members of the Assembly.

The GHRA submitted that while a review mechanism is normally understood to refer to developing new reforms, it is clear that it is equally applicable to ensuring the viability and applicability of approved reforms.

It noted that, in what must be unprecedented in the English- speaking Caribbean, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform allows for non-Parliamentarians to be co-opted as members of the committee, not simply as advisors, it said.

The GHRA argued that it therefore "has a formal legal procedure of considerable flexibility, unanimously approved by both political parties, which brings together political and civil sectors with the powers to address precisely the issues which are not at the centre of our current crisis."

In the short term the agenda of the PSCCR could include the following issues:

** Audit information of decisions emerging from the Inter-Party dialogue.

** Reserve appropriately, issues in the composition of Statutory

** Address the problem of Chairs of Parliamentary Sectoral Committees.

** Remove obstacles to implementation of Constitutional Reform Commissions.

In the longer term, the GHRA release said, having successfully addressed these issues and assessed their impact, the PNC/R would be well placed to address more fundamental reforms, of the political system in time for necessary legislation to be introduced before the next elections.

It alluded to a recent publication by the PNC/R, of proposals for further reform of the political system, and considered it to be a very welcome development.

However, the GHRA added, the possibility of constructive discussion of these proposals cannot be divorced from the movement to implement reforms already agreed upon. It added that without evidence of a serious effort from both political parties to successfully implement already approved reforms of lesser magnitude, generating public confidence in the seriousness of more ambitious reforms will be an uphill and ultimately fruitless task.

Site Meter