GEORGETOWN, Thursday, April 6, 2017 – The United Nations Constitutional Reform Team cites the Constitutional Reform process as an opportunity for social cohesion and nation building around issues that affect all Guyanese.
The UN team has presented its findings on the constitutional reform process to the Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo for review and consideration.
The report speaks to the issue of risks associated with the process of constitutional reform and notes “Guyana has a history of racial division and ethnic-political conflict”.
Prime Minister Nagamootoo had commenced discussions for UN support for constitutional reform in mid-2015 with then UN Resident Coordinator Khadija Musa and continued these discussions with her successor Ms. Mikiko Tanaka.
A UN team of experts visited Guyana in February of this year to conduct a constitutional assessment mission to advise the Government of Guyana and to provide UN decision makers with context for its support.
It is intended that the report will be presented to all stakeholders with whom the mission team engaged.
The report recommends that a successful constitutional reform process must emphasize meaningful dialogue, negotiation and compromise on the part of government, opposition and citizens.
The report provides that the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC) must be independent, representative and inclusive of civil society and that the public at large must be provided with opportunities to participate and that public education on constitutional workings and reform is critical in the facilitation of effective participation.
WARNED AGAINST RUSHING THE PROCESS
The mission team’s report warned against rushing the process of constitutional reform, stating that the timeframe for constitutional reform varies and would be dependent on variables within different countries. Guyana, it was surmised, needed to factor in the size of its territory with regard to accessing pockets of citizens and the difficulties associated with reaching consensus.
To gather information for the mission’s assessment, the UN team met with a wide range of stakeholders including: Leader of the Opposition and the People’s Progressive Party, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the National Toshaos Council Chairman, Trade Unions, the Rights Commissions, Private Sector Commission, religious bodies, the Guyana Bar Association, international partners and several other civil society bodies.
The UN mission team comprised constitutional and peacekeeping experts: Mr. Gerardo Noto, Mr. Rohan Edrisinha and Mr. Jason Gluck, who were assisted by Ms. Tanaka and Deputy Resident Coordinator Ms. Shabnam Mallick along with Mr. Fabio Oliva.
The Terms of Reference (TOR) that guided the mission team provided that they would, among other things, assess the political environment in Guyana and the legal and institutional framework governing the constitutional reform process and assess the potential role of UNDP-UNDPA in assisting this process and resources required.
Meanwhile, the draft Bill to establish the Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission is being reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General, and would be circulated to stakeholders as soon as the preliminary revision is completed. Prime Minister Nagamootoo has indicated that the proposed Bill would be sent to the Special Select Committee for further review once it is tabled in the National Assembly.