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This nation is suffering from leaders, formal and informal, regurgitating the opinions of those who are historically opposed to anything created by or under the Forbes Burnham government. The Constitution of Guyana, which was established under his administration, is one such. It is not about an amendment here or there as necessary, or law that gives meaning to the constitution as any other constitution around the world undergoes, for them it is about scrapping of the entire constitution.
Article 13 in the Constitution, which is an amendment to the functioning of the “political system” and came through the 1999 Constitutional Reform exercise, provides the best option out of the political dysfunctions except for those who don’t want to be inclusive. Said article expressly states, “The principal objective of the system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
Half the society is being shut out from the management and decision-making processes of the State which conflicts with the constitution. Yet the nation continues to be held hostage by those who are enabling the government to ignore the half due to their absence of independent and impartial assessment of the Constitution. Instead of demanding and agitating for “inclusionary democracy” these persons are calling for the scrapping of the Constitution. They are calling for the scrapping of an instrument that, should it be enforced, would ensure the protection and development of the very people they claim to be looking out for or representing the interest of.
Proponents for scrapping the constitution are also ignoring that to do this it requires the upholding of the constitution, and the Parliament proceeding in a prescribed manner as outlined in the said constitution. These persons must be asked to explain why they are interested in enforcing the constitution to scrap it but not to secure a new form of governance as outlined in Article 13. They are failing us.
People’s rights and the rule of law are not footballs to be kicking around. It is for this reason I shall stay the course in calling for the respect of the Constitution. We must nudge the politicians to ensure respect for this instrument and do what is right by the people through the enacting of laws to make real the structures that are currently in place. A constitution is made for the society, not the society made for a constitution, which means that societal behaviours are taken on board.
The Preamble in the Constitution acknowledges our racial diversity and the conflicts that can flow therefrom. Where “inclusionary democracy” has seen no bill brought to the Parliament to give meaning to this declaration of intent both sides have failed the society in this regard. The Constitution allows for the Opposition to bring any Bill to the Parliament equally as it allows the Government. If the politicians care about improving race relations, are respectful of voting patterns, having groups involved in the governance of this country, and in creating the enabling environment for every person or group to have a fair share to the nation’s pie, they would move with urgency to implement laws to give meaning to Article 13.
Another instance of political inaction is the absence of movement to give meaning to the devolution of power to the regional and local government systems as enshrined in the Constitution. The masses continue to be deprived of what’s due to them- that is playing a politically meaningful role in their development. This is a principle the trade union fought to achieve by the way of voting, internal self-government, and people’s day-to-day involvement in acts of governance specific to their interest and wellbeing.
The proponents for constitutional reform or scrapping do not understand that there is a difference between a constitution and the legislation that flows from it. The constitution is the declaration of intent and legislation operationalises the intent. The failure to differentiate, contempt for and ignorance of the instrument, laziness to prepare bills, and the attractiveness of attacking the constitution rather than fighting for its enforcement have us in this mess today. The nation is being held hostage by politicians’ failure, and other activists, to act decisively in making real what the Constitution adumbrated. We continue to fail ourselves.