Govt not serious about constitutional reform – Jagdeo

first_imgPM’s $5M reform expenditureAs the appointments of a substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice (CJ) remain in limbo, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is contending the Government is perhaps not too serious about advancing constitutional reform.Parliament BuildingAt a sitting of the National Assembly earlier this month, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had disclosed that his secretariat spent some $5 million on constitutional reform, but the Opposition cast doubt on the expenditure based on its position that it was not clear how the funds were being utilised.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo spoke on the issue at two recent press conferences, where reporters sought to ascertain the Party’s response to the Prime Minister’s expenditure. Jagdeo, who is a former President, appeared not to be too convinced about the spending, saying that constitutional reform should be broad-based.“If you trace how it is spent, it is probably spent for drinks and food maybe … we have an open mind to constitutional reform once it comes out of a consultative process, is broad-based and that the people of our country support it; not anything contrived in an office by a few people who think they know best for all of our people across Guyana. I don’t think they’re serious about it,” Jagdeo observed last week.He also said that the PPP was willing to “move forward the process” of such reforms, as he called on the Government to meet at the table. He stressed that any reform must reflect the will of the Guyanese public.“Let’s discuss it to see what is possible; we don’t know what will be the outcome,” highlighted Jagdeo, who is the PPP’s General Secretary.His fellow Party executive, Anil Nandlall, who served as Attorney General in the PPP/C Government, told Guyana Times earlier this month that Government was not fulfilling its promises regarding the reform. The Attorney had even questioned the veracity of the PM’s $5 million expenditure as he noted that three and a half years in Government passed without any tangible steps being taking towards achieving constitutional reform. “We had a report done by a few persons handpicked by the Prime Minister and we were told millions were expended; it was handed to the PM and we have heard nothing about the report since,” the PPP executive complained.In August 2015, the Prime Minister appointed a Steering Committee that was supposed to lay the framework for a new constitutional process. The Committee’s convener was Attorney Nigel Hughes, while constitution expert Haslyn Parris was named as a member in addition to Professor Harold Lutchman and Attorneys Gino Persaud and Geeta Chandan-Edmond.However, Nandlall had pointed out that the Committee “did not speak” with the PPP, which is the only Opposition party in the National Assembly. In the 2018 Budget, it was outlined that the Office of the Prime Minister spent $5 million on constitutional reform out of the $109.2 million allocated to Nagamootoo’s secretariat, under the sub heading ‘other’.Highlighting the slow implementation of the functioning of certain constitutional bodies, Nandlall posited that the current administration was not embarking on the required measures to achieve the reforms which it assured would have been carried out.Aside from the non-appointment of acting Chancellor, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and acting CJ, Roxane George, SC, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which appoints Magistrates and recommends Judges for the President to appoint was not currently constituted.President David Granger, who is currently receiving treatment for cancer in Cuba, had recommended Justice Cummings-Edwards for the CJ position and Chief Justice of Belize, Kenneth Benjamin for the post of Chancellor. The Opposition Leader did not agree and as such, the conformation of two posts remains in limbo.The life of the most recent JSC ended in September 2017 along with the Police Service Commission (PSC). However, the PSC was constituted in August 2018, nearly one year later. In the PSC’s absence, Citizenship Minister Winston Felix acting in the capacity of Public Security Minister for Khemraj Ramjattan instructed then acting Police Commissioner to send an Assistant Superintendent of Police home, but the High Court has determined this as unconstitutional.Prior to the President’s ailment, he and the Opposition Leader were not meeting regularly to discuss urgent constitutional posts, but the two sides eventually met after former United States President Jimmy Carter intervened.last_img read more