Amerindians not left out of constitutional reform process

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C, said Amerindians will not be excluded from the nation’s constitutional reform process, while reaffirming government’s commitment to ensuring their rights are legally protected.

The move comes at a time when the administration is forging ahead with building a new legislative infrastructure for Guyana.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C

The AG said the rights of Amerindians are a central feature in the constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.

He noted that the constitution prohibits discrimination in any “form or fashion,” but permits positive discrimination in favour of the nation’s first peoples.

“It is in the constitution that you are afforded protection against discrimination, [and is] guaranteed equal treatment at every level of national life…the constitution also allows for if there is going to be discrimination as it relates to Amerindians, the discrimination must be in favour of Amerindians,” he explained, at the closing of the National Toshaos Council Conference, at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, on Friday.

The minister said when government begins the process of constitutional reform, it will be done in a public consultative way.

Already, the administration has tabled a proposal for the establishment of a constitutional reform commission, submitting that the body be established by law, and that its members be appointed by the president.

Fifty percent of the membership shall be selected from the government and the opposition, while the other 50 percent will be drawn from civil society organisations, including the labour movement and the private sector, the Guyana Bar Association, as well as religious, farmers, women and youth organisations.

Those basic provisions will be crafted into a bill, after which consequential provisions will be added to ensure that the commission is able to discharge its mandate.

“That commission will engage you in your communities across the hinterland to solicit your views, inputs and recommendations…[which] will be chronicled, and will be examined at the appropriate time, and incorporated into the new or amended constitution,” the AG explained.

Further, he emphasised, our government intends to deliver that constitutional guarantee to you, the Amerindian people.”

Amerindian Act Review

The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs has already set aside $10 million to commence the consultation process leading up to the revision of the Amerindian Act No. 6 of 2006.

The fund will ensure the setting up of a committee, the modalities of the consultation, and the training of the facilitators who will be taking up the ardent task.

The Act was passed some 30 years ago. The AG posited that over three decades is enough time to require a review of any law. 

Minister Nandlall explained that reviewing the Act will address the issues that the village heads highlighted during the five-day NTC Conference.

“Let me assure you firstly, that the government is committed to address in a very comprehensive and pragmatic way all of those concerns of yours. Let me inform you, that most of those concerns fall under my responsibility as the Attorney General.”

Following instructions from President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the Attorney General plans to hold consultations in every Amerindian community, noting that citizens have a crucial participatory role to play in changing the legislative infrastructure.

 “At every stage of the process, you are going to be engaged in a constructive, practical and meaningful way, so that your inputs will be extracted… so that it can be put into the new bill that will seek to amend the Amerindian Act,” the AG emphasised.