The question is really very simple: Will the PPP/C propose inclusive governance in the constitutional reform process that is due to commence this year, as promised in its 2020 Manifesto? This is the question I asked in my article two weeks ago – “Constitutional Reform and the 2023 Budget.” The Attorney General, the Hon. Anil Nandlall, sought to answer the question in a response printed by the SN on 13 February, in the way that lawyers sometimes do – evade the subject by focusing on a tangential issue.
I return to this subject because it is extremely important for the well-being of Guyana and because it has been on the nation’s political agenda for many decades. Indeed, the AG’s party, the PPP, commenced its life as an inclusive movement in 1950. After, it was sundered in 1955,
It has consistently sought to return to its inclusive ways, starting with proposals for a coalition government in the early 1960s, then with a national patriotic front in 1977, finally with shared governance or winner does not take all from the late 1980s up to 1991. It has now appeared in in the PPP/C’s Manifesto in the modified from of inclusive governance.
I have argued several times that the Constitution contains the basis for inclusive governance but the mechanisms that exist for this purpose have not been activated, or fully activated, by past governments. The PPP/C knows this and so does its Attorney General. But since the PPP/C has raised the issue in its Manifesto, the objective of this discourse is to seek information on whether the PPP/C will make proposals on inclusive governance during the constitution reform process and, if so, what those proposals may be. The Attorney General clearly does not wish to be engaged.
What does he say? The AG’s response is quoted from SN: “Nandlall accused Ramkarran of cherry- picking excerpts from the manifesto and said his reference missed an important part in the sentence that followed his referenced quote.” The sentence in the Manifesto Mr. Nandlall referred to is the following: “However, we believe that these, as well as other issues, must be part of a process of widespread consultation with the people of Guyana before being acted upon. The extensive changes to our Constitution under the PPP/C followed such a process.”
I didn’t ignore the issue of ‘consultation.’ My article quoted the opening sentence from the Manifesto’s passage on inclusive governance which states: “Ensuring people’s participation in revising the Supreme Law of the Land.” My article goes on to quote from the provision in the Act that provided for consultation. It stated: “The Commission is charged with consulting the widest possible geographical area, with as many persons, groups, communities, organisations and institutions as possible, including religious and cultural organisations, political parties, youth organisations, high school and university students, women’s organisations, private sector organisations, professional bodies and the media. The Commission shall have power to conduct any inquiry or investigation within its terms of reference that it considers necessary.” The AG clearly only superficially read what I wrote, busy man that he is. Now who is cherry-picking?
The PPP/C has embraced the issue of “consultation” as a fetish. If I were a suspicious person, I would conclude that the PPP/C is hoping or expecting that the consultation process will reject inclusive governance or be induced to do so. But I am not suspicious. I believe that the inclusion of inclusive governance in the Manifesto was a genuine effort by the PPP/C to deal with Guyana’s most enduring problem of ethno-political dominance. I believe that the PPP/C is concerned with the sporadic outbursts of violence that is a manifestation of instability brought about by ethno-political dominance. But I also believe that the PPP/C does not see the current APNU’s posture as one that is conducive to any engagement on the subject. And, of course, the PPP/C believes, as it has always vainly believed, that it can win over APNU’s support, especially in this era of an oil economy. But this is not going to happen, and inclusive governance/shared governance is here to stay.
The Manifesto states that: “We are aware that issues concerning constitutional reform, particularly in relation to a national, inclusive government model, … have been raised and discussed in the public domain.” The Attorney General said in his response: “Moving forward, we are committed to a process of constitutional reform.” The Manifesto and these statements suggest that the PPP/C is obliged and enjoined to make proposals for inclusive governance, to be embraced or rejected by the consultation process. But whether or not proposals are made by the Government/PPP/C, what test will be applied to determine whether the consultation process accepts or rejects inclusive governance? A handpicked committee?
The Government must be persuaded to put forward proposals for inclusive governance, to be discussed and refined in the consultation process and to be determined not by a committee, but by a referendum at the next general elections, which can include a name change of Guyana to “Republic of Guyana” and elimination of the provision of Guyana as a state in transition to socialism, and others, which were proposed in 1999-2000 by the constitution reform process but could only be amended if supported in a referendum.