Con­sti­tu­tional sym­po­sium pan­el­lists should un­der­stand the Con­sti­tu­tion be­fore speak­ing on it

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

Dear Ed­i­tor, Ref­er­ence is be­ing made to the sym­po­sium held by the Univer­sity of Guyana Tain cam­pus that dealt with the Guyana Con­sti­tu­tion, which thank­fully con­tin­ues to re­ceive at­ten­tion by Stabroek News, as it aids fur­ther con­ver­sa­tions, knowl­edge and aware­ness of this in­stru­ment as some clam­our for re­form. At­ten­tion is be­ing drawn to state­ments made by key pre­sen­ters as re­ferred to here­un­der:

1. Ms Jean La Rose, who rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of the Amerindian com­mu­nity, re­port­edly ad­vised the sym­po­sium the Con­sti­tu­tion needs re­form given its al­leged fail­ure to ac­knowl­edge the im­por­tance of land to this com­mu­nity. The Con­sti­tu­tion de­clares all cit­i­zens equal un­der the law (Ar­ti­cle 149D), in­su­lates all Guyanese from dis­crim­i­na­tion on the grounds of race (Ar­ti­cle 149); ex­pressly ad­dresses the rights of the in­dige­nous peo­ples (Ar­ti­cle 149G), pro­tects every ci­ti­zen’s right not to be de­prived of prop­erty (Ar­ti­cle 142), and en­shrines the In­dige­nous Peo­ples’ Com­mis­sion (Ar­ti­cles 212S; 212T).

Un­der all the stated ar­ti­cles what Ms La Rose seeks can be ad­dressed and there­fore nul­li­fies the con­tention for con­sti­tu­tional re­form to ad­dress her con­cern. Such con­cern is al­ready ad­dressed and safe­guarded in the Con­sti­tu­tion un­der “Fun­da­men­tal Rights and Free­doms” (Ti­tle 1). What is needed is leg­is­la­tion to give mean­ing to these rights and free­doms which is a re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Na­tional Assem­bly and should see ad­vo­cacy from the peo­ple to bring I about.

2. Ter­rence Camp­bell, who was the speaker rep­re­sent­ing the group, Re­form, In­spire, Sus­tain and Ed­u­cate (RISE) re­port­edly called for con­sti­tu­tional re­form to bring about a con­stituency based sys­tem which from his per­spec­tive can bring more ac­count­abil­ity to governance. This or­gan­i­sa­tion is hereby ad­vised to re­fer to Ar­ti­cle 160 which speaks to the elec­toral sys­tem and the author­ity of Par­lia­ment to make laws re­spon­sive to the peo­ple’s de­sire. The Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Peo­ple Act, Chap­ter 1:03 ad­dresses the for­mat un­der which our elec­tions are con­ducted. This again does not make the case for con­sti­tu­tional re­form, given that RISE’s in­ter­est can be ad­dressed in the Act, and this group may find it ben­e­fi­cial to en­gage the po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the Na­tional Assem­bly to ex­am­ine its de­sire.

Ac­count­abil­ity in the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem does not rely on con­sti­tu­tional re­form. Ac­count­abil­ity will never be achieved even with the most per­fect of con­sti­tu­tions, in the ab­sence of the will and com­mit­ment by so­ci­ety to

hold per­sons (elected and ap­pointed) ac­count­able. RISE is there­fore en­cour­aged to add its voice to the few who are pros­e­cut­ing such in­ter­est.

While I ap­plaud the sym­po­sium held by the Tain cam­pus, like the sym­po­sium held by the Carter Cen­ter ear­lier this year, pan­el­lists seem not to be mind­ful of the im­por­tance of be­ing equipped with knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion be­fore speak­ing on the is­sues they are rais­ing. This is a trou­bling fea­ture and makes it more ur­gent for pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion so the Con­sti­tu­tion is un­der­stood be­fore pro­ceed­ing to re­form. Ar­ti­cle 119A in the Con­sti­tu­tion fa­cil­i­tates such a process through a Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee for Con­sti­tu­tional Re­form and this body must do its work and cit­i­zens must en­sure this. Yours faith­fully, Lin­coln Lewis

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