By   September 25, 2019

The People’s Progressive Party has, in recent times, been reticent on the issue of constitutional reform.  Now, Mr. Anil Nandlall, a famous attorney and former (and perhaps, still?) presidential aspirant, has excoriated a supporter of ANUG for calling for constitutional reform in his letter yesterday to SN.

Admittedly, many people may now be jaded by the call for “constitutional reform.” But the core of Guyana’s political problems derives from political instability created by the majoritarian governance system, enshrined in the Constitution, in an ethnically divided society.  It is clearly not working and needs to be changed.

Guyana is structured under two different realities and each is defended with equal fervour. While Anil Nandlall argues that there has been lots of constitutional reform already (not true) and what is needed is constitutional compliance (true), equally prominent intellectuals and opinion leaders, such as Lincoln Lewis and Sherwood Lowe, publicly justify the violation of our constitution by the Government on the most spurious of grounds. Both realities arise with impunity from the same facts in our political and legal space.

Ralph-Ramkarran

Perhaps the phrase “constitutional reform” has been overused. Guyanese have been fed a political diet of constitutional reform since the 1970s when then Government publicised a letter by seventeen lawyers, some of whom are still around, just prior to the 1973 elections, urging Guyanese not to be afraid of the PNC obtaining a two-thirds majority because the only constitution reform it planned was to reduce the age of majority to 18. The PNC did obtain the two-thirds majority and many Guyanese alive today experienced the horrors of the period between 1973 and 1992, far beyond reducing the age of majority, by the abuse of that two-thirds majority. Those who disagreed with policies with the PPP Government after 1992 had a majoritarian system to contend with by which numbers ruled the day.

The proposal for a “political solution,” which the PPP made very prominent leading up to the 1992 elections was tested in the constitutional reform process in 1999-2000 which many saw as an opportunity to reform what became known as the 1980 Burnham Constitution. The idea of a political solution by way of “shared governance,” urged by many members of the Constitutional Reform Commission, fell victim to the triumphalism of the PPP after its victory at the 1992 elections and obstructionism of the PNCR, although a courageous group of PNCR members, which included Sherwood Lowe, publicly supported ‘shared governance.’ Thus, the hope which has always been held out for constitutional reform to create a political solution and revolutionise our political culture was dashed in 1999-2000.

ralphramkarran

But it remains alive and well, as Joe Singh’s (Maj-Gen) recent letter to SN supporting shared governance testifies. Several other prominent citizens have done so. The urgency for a political solution is so great, and the power of the idea so compelling, that it has driven a person of such rigid civic independence as Joe Singh to go public on a quasi-political matter, which he has never done in his decades of willing and generous service to Guyana.  The creation of a “political solution” by constitutional reform, of the sort advocated by Joe Singh and others, is really what ANUG is after.

 Guyana needs a political system which will eliminate ethno-political competition as its dominant feature. We believe that the vast  majority of Guyanese will support a system where the main political parties are required to establish and participate by law and the constitution in a governance structure in which political office is equally divided at the governmental level, while the parliamentary system remains proportionately representative. This we believe is the best solution for Guyana’s less than optimum, majoritarian, system which breeds political instability, ethnic insecurity and a perpetual struggle for ethnic dominance. There are many methods by which this can be achieved. ANUG will announce its own ideas in due course.

ANUG is the only political party with a vision of national unity that meets the needs of all Guyana at this critical period. It provides an honourable role for our major parties. It eliminates their struggle for dominance. Ethnic insecurity and suspicion will be replaced by ethnic respect and cooperation. Corruption and crime will fade as widely supported policies are implemented. And we believe that the Guyanese people will broadly support such a governance system.

Yours faithfully,

Ralph Ramkarran

General Secretary

A New and United Guyana (ANUG)