kaieteur news Oct 16, 2017
Long time politician, Vincent Alexander is of the opinion that in order for constitutional reform to be successful in the strengthening of the “contact of the people,” there must be a keen focus on good governance.
He recently said, “When one speaks of governance, one is really speaking of the decision making processes and the manner of service delivery as practiced by governments and their agencies, the corporate world and civil society organizations.”
Alexander noted that good governance is founded on transparency, accountability, inclusivity, openness, equity, and ethics.
He said that constitutions are regarded as the people’s contract which legislate the architecture for Governance.
Alexander said that as the people’s contract, the constitution should reflect the interest of the people. He said that the extent to which a society may be plural in its composition is the extent to which the constitution has to reflect and provide for that plurality. Therefore, the architecture of Governance provided for in the constitution should also reflect and provide for that plurality.
Alexander said that the question now is “does the Constitution of Guyana reflect and provide for Guyana’ ethnic plurality. If it does not, that suggests that the constitution needs to be reformed to reflect and provide for that reality.”
“This reflection and provision should most likely be found in the governance architecture, inter alia, since it is that architecture that provides for the decision making processes and manner in which services are delivered to the people, both of which are likely to impact the individuals and or the various collectives that comprise the plurality.”
Alexander said therefore that the Constitution and the process through which it is reformed should both be cognizant of good governance.
He said that the process for constitutional reform has to be inclusive so that all of the stakeholders become its owners. Alexander said that there must be accountability in this process. He also said, “It has to be open so that its inclusivity and accountability are obvious and realized, respectively. It has to be equitable, thus catering for minorities, while being transparent, thus guaranteeing its fairness. These are among the essential prerequisites for a credible reform process.”
Alexander continued, “Against that background I would suggest that we seek national consensus on the need and purpose for constitutional reform. We must determine a priori the reason why we should embark on the process and what mischief we would wish the Constitution to address.”
The politician also suggested that the process for constitutional reform should be research based and consultative at the level of academia, and the political parties and civil society, respectively. Alexander even suggested that an expert group should be empanelled to mediate and if necessary arbitrate the process.
He further suggested that expert round tables should be established to brainstorm the specific areas identified for attention. “Their conclusions should then become the basis for a country wide consultative process. An expert group should then massage the outcomes of the roundtables and the consultative process into concrete recommendations for consideration by a stakeholder reform commission. A team of legislative drafters should then be tasked with the drafting of a new or amended constitution as deemed appropriate, whichever draft should then be subjected to the required approval process.”
Alexander said that given the plural nature of the society, the reformed constitution should pay specific attention to the matter of decision making and the way in which the decision making bodies are established.
Also, Alexander said that the electoral system should be reformed to allow the electorate greater latitude in directly determining their representatives.
He further suggested that the legislative system should be reformed to ensure that major decisions are consensual, i.e. determined by a qualified majority. And, he said that the President should be a creature of a legislative qualified majority with the Prime Minister being Head of Government and the President Head of State but not titular.
Alexander said that there should also be mechanisms to ensure that constitutional provisions are honoured.
“This is probably one of the major issues to be addressed, as well as the composition of national bodies which ever so often are but a replica of the National Assembly. Provisions on Good Governance literally have to be enshrined to ensure that there is adherence to the principles of Good Governance. Where the executive fails to act in keeping with the constitutional provisions, the President should be empowered to act and where he fails the courts should be empowered to take action. One other is the need for mechanisms to be developed to ensure that court decisions cannot be flouted by the state.”