Efforts are moving along to have the much-anticipated Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC) established after the Guyana Government recently invited various civil society bodies to make submissions of their nominees to be appointed.
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, made this revelation during an interview with this publication on Saturday. He explained that the letters were sent last week.
“Letters have been dispatched to the relevant persons and/or organisations, inviting their nominees to be appointed by His Excellency, the President, to the Constitutional Reform Commission in accordance with the provisions of the Constitutional Reform Commission Act,” Nandlall said.
According to the Attorney General, these bodies were given one month to submit their nominees for appointment to the long-awaited commission.
Constitutional reform was promised in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) manifesto in 2020, where it was further outlined that consultation with the populace and important stakeholders; and a broad-based Constitutional Reform Commission would drive the process.
The way was paved for the establishment of the Constitutional Reform Commission and the commencement of the reform process following the passage of the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill in the National Assembly in November 2022. Back in August of 2022, the Government presented the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill 2022 in the National Assembly. That Bill seeks the establishment of a 20-member Constitutional Reform Commission to review the country’s supreme laws.
The 20-member commission will be drawn from political parties (five from the ruling party and four from the main Opposition and one from the ANUG), while 10 will be drawn from religious groupings, the private sector, the Guyana Bar Association, the National Toshaos Council, the labour movement, women’s organisations as well as nominees representing farmers and youths.
Back in August last year, AG Nandlall had pointed out that, “It’s not going to be a politically dominated commission. It’s going to be half politicians and half civil society. The work of the commission will be driven by public consultation.”
The Legal Affairs Minister had stated that once the commission is in place, a comprehensive consultation process will begin with citizens on critical laws that needed to be reformed.
There had been concerns over the delays in setting up the commission, which Government had committed to have in place before the end of 2023. However, Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Minister, Gail Teixeira, told reporters at a press conference last week that the delays in setting up the Commission had to do with Government’s attention being focused on Venezuela’s aggression towards Guyana.
“It was just overtaken by time… The Venezuela border issue really consumed an enormous amount of time for the Government, for the Attorney General, for the lawyers and also consumed a lot of angst by the community… These are not easy things to justify in terms of how governments work but in fact, this is what does happen,” the Governance Minister noted.
Nevertheless, Teixeira reassured that, “I know both the Attorney General and the President are committed to setting it up as soon as possible, and I will work with both of them in whatever way possible to bring it about.”
According to the provisions of the CRC Bill, the commission will review the Constitution to provide for the current and future rights, duties, liabilities and obligations of the Guyanese people. It is mandated for that purpose to receive, consider, and evaluate submissions for the alteration of the Constitution, and report its recommendations to the Standing Committee for transmission to the National Assembly.
Last year, Government had earmarked the sum of $150 million in the 2023 National Budget for constitutional reform activities slated to be carried out.