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I read about the establishment of a proposed Constitutional Reform Commission where the political parties have named representatives to serve on this Commission. Taking into account the present socio-economic-political environments of Guyana, this is a complete waste of time, energy and money. But even more egregious, more harmful, and more debilitating is that attention paid to such a Commission would divert the nation’s attention from important bread and butter issues.
At this time, let us devote our time and energy towards ensuring that our people obtain much more from our natural resources.It is crystal clear that no change in our Constitution will change the behaviour pattern of the people in charge of the Government. I can see no adjustment in our Constitution that will change the massive profits of those who are extracting our non-renewable natural resources and will guarantee lifting ordinary people out of poverty.
Out of the Guyana operations, Exxon is allowed to make $US7.6B, but yet the average public servant cannot provide three nutritious meals for their parents and children. If someone can tell me what changes in our Constitution can alter this fact I will readily change my position.
We live in a country where ignoring provisions in the present Constitution has become commonplace. We live in a country where time honoured tradition is emasculating. We live in a country where morality is either trampled upon and trivialised . We live in a country where persons, vaulted into high office, seem not to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. We live in a country where in the execution of our daily duties there is a thin line between crassness , poor performance, mediocrity and excellence.
We live in a country where the traditional relationship between government and labour, where collective bargaining has taken flight. We live in a country where the notion of effective consultation is no longer. We live in a country where no matter how reasonable a proposal in Parliament by the Opposition, it is ignored. We live in a country where the financial resources are allocated based on the ipse dixit of the ruling cabal. We live in a country where the elite is in control of most of the media and therefore of what people are told. We live in a country where people must await the snail-like pace of a judiciary to dispense justice and where in many instances, we experience the statement that justice delayed is justice denied.
We live in a country where the Party in Office feels it is duty bound by employing every rule or tactic if possible to control every facet of our lives. We live in a country where it appears that every effort is being made to frustrate workers in the traditional public service so that they take refuge by migrating to other countries. Giving the present government the opportunity to bring in others from certain places, obviously to change the demographics which existed from post-slavery.
Whatever time and energy we have left, it should be directed to dealing with the abovementioned state of affairs. The effort must begin within our religious organisations, the home, the school and the community. This with a depraved world is a monumental task but I believe if undertaken in a bipartisan way and with gusto will be much better than any attempt at tinkering with a Constitution.
The effectiveness of a Constitution is dependent on the personnel in the captain’s deck on the ship of state. This relationship is neither new nor novel. It is a problem that has bedevilled our civilization for centuries. Take the two big countries, thanks to our history, best known to Guyana.
First, our erstwhile masters rested their behaviour and things done on the magna carta but this ideal was diluted notwithstanding what the Constitutions demanded. The other dimension of course, is the importance of developing a tradition which will stand the test of time. For years an accepted tradition for the conduct of business and the way society must be managed was only adjusted when citizens stood up and spoke out to demand redress and equity, which always were part of Constitutions.
I need not burden this letter with details but my favourite example is when King Charles I sought to ignore Parliament and tradition he was cornered and had his head clinically removed from the rest of his body. Next example is the United States of America. Thanks to the folly of King George III who ignored the pleas of the colony.
They had the declaration of Indepence on the 4th July, 1776. But they put in the Constitution that we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ etc. But we all know that equality did not apply to people of colour, which led to the American Civil War and the various acts of rebellion that produced whether you liked it or not a great nation state. But even today, as I listen to NPR, BBC and CNN News etc, there is a contentious environment surrounding the interpretation of articles of the Constitution.
Dear Editor, let me avoid the tedium of details. Save to say, it matters little the contents of our Constitution. What matters is accountability, transparency and above all, men and women who can differentiate between what is morally right and wrong. Men and women of integrity willing to practise what they preach, willing to be faithful to a Constitution, men and women who truly believe in righteousness, men and women with a moral sense, In other words, let us in our Mosques, temples, churches, work feverishly to affect an attitudinal change and inject into the veins of those who lead to have a moral sense.
In the Book of Philosophy written by Elmer Sprague, we are reminded “ that in the first half of the 18th century, certain British Philosophers argued that the moral sense is the faculty by which we distinguish between moral right and wrong. The deliverance of the faculty are feelings or sentiments; hence it is counted as a sense. Our observation of an instance of virtuous action is the occasion for a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction, which enables us to distinguish that action as virtuous. Similarly, our observation of an instance of vicious action is an occasion for a feeling of pain or uneasiness, which enables us to distinguish that action as vicious. The moral sense is also an influencing motive in our pursuit of virtue and our avoidance of vicious behaviour, and a place a part in our bestowal of praise and blame.”
Dear Citizens and Editor, no matter what we write in a Constitution, unless we can boldly tackle the dilemma of quality leadership and a nation unprepared to accept corruption and mediocrity, the whole exercise is a waste of time, energy and money. I plead that we deal with the gut issues that will make a difference.
It is not what is in the Constitution. It is to get men and women of honour and rectitude to lead our nation.