Sep 25, 2017
Political scientist, Dr. David Hinds thinks that no amount of oil money can save Guyana from its current trajectory. Dr. Hinds thinks that Constitutional Reform is imperative to the dismantling of racial divide which in turn is vital for progress in Guyana.
In airing his views, Dr. Hinds has added to the echoing call for constitutional reform. His voice is added to that of the United Kingdom, Carter Center, attorney-at law Nigel Hughes, and several other prominent names in the Guyanese society. In fact even the current government promised constitutional reform. But the progress along this line, to many, seems slow.
Yesterday, Dr. Hinds said that a constitution ought to be a living document that is constantly adjusted to meet the social, political, economic and cultural realities of the society. He said that downplaying constitutional reform assumes that the society is stuck in time, that it is not dynamic.
Dr. Hinds opined, “You don’t move from colonialism to freedom without constantly adjusting your constitutions to achieve the latter. It is a constant process in which you strengthen just laws, stamp out unjust ones and replace them with progressive ones.”
The political scientist said that the proof of an effective constitution is its ability to guarantee political and social stability while protecting citizens from the wrath of institutional power and from their fellow citizens. He said, “A just constitution in our case must simultaneously guarantee rights and liberty to individuals and groups and promote democracy and ethnic equality.”
Dr. Hinds noted that Guyana was given a constitution at independence that in the final analysis enabled rather that contained our ethnic divide. “Were there good things in that independence constitution? Yes. But there were aspects of it that were invariably exploited by the political elites in their pursuit of normalizing an authoritarian state.”
Hinds acknowledged the fact that the 1980 constitution enshrined rights that were not expressed in the independence constitution. He said however that it simultaneously strengthened the authoritarian state, “in particular the powers of the executive. It also continued to enable ethnic dominance by keeping in place the winner-take-all device.”
Dr. Hinds said that the 2001 reforms were aimed at dismantling that authoritarian state and doing something about the winner-take-all system. However, he said that, “While there were some modifications, it did not treat in any fundamental way with the twin-problem of executive tyranny and ethnic dominance. Two decades later, the society cries out for corrective measures on these fronts.”
Dr. Hinds referred to an article published in this newspaper where former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall aired his views on the need for constitutional reform. That article can be read here: https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2017/09/23/political-maturity-constitutional-compliance-more-vital-than-their-reforms/.
Dr. Hinds said that he completely agrees with Nandlall that compliance with constitutional provisions is vital to an effective democracy. “But I think the issue is much broader than he frames it. It is not a matter of compliance or constitutional reform or one trumping the other. We have to do both. I think, in our case, both compliance and reform are imperative. Constitutional reform is aimed at strengthening the democratic foundations of the constitution, which in turn would likely lead to more effective compliance.”
Further, Hinds said that Nandlall correctly argues that for any constitution to work effectively, you need mature political leaders. He also correctly points to the inability of our governments, including the one in which he served, to implement democratic provisions in the present constitution. However, Dr, Hinds questioned, “But what happens when a society does not throw up mature leaders?” He said that the lure of unchecked powers and the quest for ethnic dominance impede political maturity in Guyana. “That is why we need more robust expressed checks and balances, more separation of powers, more devolution of powers along with power sharing mechanisms aimed at blocking ethnic dominance and promoting ethnic solidarity.”
Dr. Hinds said that there is therefore a relationship between constitutional reform and compliance with just laws. He added, “The more you strengthen the democratic foundations of the constitution, the more likely leaders would comply with the individual elements. In the end the constitution must not only be a legal document with formal rules, but it must also be a document that promotes equality and social justice and broaden the scope for freedom of individuals and groups.”