Of recent, calls have been made for both constitutional reforms to be effected and social cohesion to prevail without much examination of the correlation between the two issues.
During a recent interview on local television broadcast, ‘The Factor”, which airs on TVG Channel 28, three prominent political commentators have explored the concepts of constitutional reform and its nexus with social cohesion, sharing ideas of how both concepts can be integrated into the Guyanese society in order to move the country forward in a more inclusive manner.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall agreed foremost that social cohesion is important to any society but in Guyana, he does not see the constitution as a major mechanism in achieving that objective.
He contended that the urgent need for constitutional reform is not necessarily to achieve social cohesion, as there are other factors that must be involved for unity to prevail among the citizenry.
Nandlall explored the concept of inclusive government and how it relates to promoting social cohesion, and in conclusion noted that with Guyana’s current political atmosphere, progress can never be made in this regard.
Speaking generally, Nandlall said the political system is not dysfunctional but rather, it is not being allowed to work: “If the Opposition was allowed to function conceptually in the effective role it is supposed to function in, in terms of given powers we ought to have as Opposition, the regions won being allowed to have the autonomy entitled to, allowed to function with that independence, then it would not be a winner take all situation.”
He further explained that the executive government which wins the election would have the executive power however, civil society and other arms will have the independence to exercise the power in which they were entitled.
On the other hand, David Hinds believes the constitution has an integral role to play in the fostering of social cohesion in Guyana.
He argued that while reforming the constitution will not directly bring about social cohesion, it will “free up” the people from the various insecurities that affect or impact their decisions: “It will free up the notion that I have to vote for this party, that I have to keep out the other party.”
Hinds emphasised that need for inclusionary government, positing that there needs to be constitutional reform in this area in order for social cohesion to follow.
“When the government hogs the power, it is in the context of the constitution,” he stated, explaining that the constitution gives way for abuse to easily prevail.
In this regard, he contended that the winner-takes-all system must be abandoned: “The system of governance, where whichever party wins, wins the entire government, then social cohesion goes through the window because it means that those who are not in the government are effectively excluded from exercising real tangible powers.”
Ravi Dev also agreed that the constitution has an important role to play in promoting social cohesion in Guyana. He contended that if people do not see themselves or their rights being represented by those in the government, then they will never accept the realities around them.
On this note, Dev posited that constitutional reform needs to take place in order to address the fundamental cleavages in the society.