Aug 02, 2017
The nation is currently waiting for the process of constitutional reform to get underway. In the meantime, several critics believe that the government has been doing a fair job in exercising some degree of control over the use of its power.
Specifically making this point recently was Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds.
In recent times, Dr. Hinds has been extremely critical of the government, especially as it relates to hastening the process of constitutional reform.
Yesterday, the University professor said that he finds the Executive to be strong. In fact, the WPA Executive Member contented that one can reasonably argue that there is a form of executive supremacy.
“I do not believe that there has been a pattern of abuse of power by this executive. There have been instances of over-reach and bad policy, but these, to my mind, have not amounted to abuse of power.
“Despite institutional and political obstacles, there have been checks on executive power.”
Dr. Hinds asserted that in an institutional sense, executive power can only be checked by the oversight of the other two branches of government—the legislative and judicial branches.
In present circumstances, where the governing Coalition controls both the legislative and executive branches, Dr. Hinds said it is difficult for the legislature to have any effective oversight of the executive.
The WPA Executive Member said that there is some room for oversight in the sectoral committees by the opposition. In addition, he said that the PPP has been doing a very good job at that level.
But ultimately, when things get to the floor, Dr. Hinds said that the ruling Coalition uses its majority to get its way.
The University Professor said that there are two impediments to more effective oversight by the legislature.
“First, there is not enough separation of powers. We need to move away from the system whereby the entire cabinet sits in parliament, even when a Cabinet member is not an elected member. This is a very counterproductive and obsolete arrangement. We are basically asking the Executive branch to oversee itself.”
Dr. Hinds continued, “The second impediment has to do with a political culture that is grounded in party loyalty or voting along party lines. It means that Members of Parliament (MP) do not vote according to their consciences or on the perceived feelings of their constituencies.
So, there is hardly likely that a MP of the ruling coalition or for that matter of the PPP would vote against his or her party in parliament. From the ruling coalition standpoint, the fact that it only has a one-seat majority makes it even more impossible for such a scenario.
The political activist added, “We have however, seen instances where the judicial branch has pushed backed against the executive—the most recent instance being the Chief Justice’s ruling on the GECOM impasse.
“This is good for democracy since the courts are the final arbiter of the law. When one takes into consideration, that we have had political interference in the Judiciary, it is remarkable that the court is still prepared to act independently.”
Dr. Hinds said that the other area of oversight that is very encouraging is that of Civil Society.
In this regard, he said, “We have always had a very vocal, if not vigilant, Civil Society in Guyana. The problem has been the partisan bent of our Civil Society organizations, whereby some organizations tend to be more vocal when one or the other party is in power. But I think they have generally done a good job at oversight of this government, even if I think better can be done.”
Additionally, Dr. Hinds said that the recent development where the WPA, a member of the Coalition, has begun to be critical of government action. He stressed that this is good for oversight of the executive.
He noted that while the Guyanese society is not one that welcomes internal criticism, the government can ill-afford to ignore oversight from within.
Dr. Hinds said, too, that the coming on stream of integrity legislation and anti-corruption initiatives would also go a long way towards checking executive power. But ultimately, Dr. Hinds emphasized that constitutional reform is the most effective way of reducing the powers of the executive which is itself a formal check the enormous power of the executive. (Kiana Wilburg)