Constitutional Reform Commission sworn-in

President Ali encourages it to ‘approach responsibilities diligently’

Newly sworn-in commissioners of the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC) have been encouraged to execute their responsibilities diligently and with dedication, as they take on the arduous task of modernising Guyana’s supreme laws to counter evolving and new challenges.

A total of 18 commissioners took their oath of office before His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali at the Office of the President on Wednesday, while the remaining commissioners will take the oath at a later date.

His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali and members of the Constitutional Reform Commission

The 2022 Constitutional Reform Commission Act has outlined several areas for potential reform, including indigenous peoples’ rights, fundamental rights, children’s rights, eradication of discrimination, enhancement of race relations, and electoral reform, among other areas.

Offering words of encouragement, President Ali emphasised that these areas of focus are wide-ranging, but not exhaustive of the commission’s scope of work.

“It is imperative to recognise the weighty mandate entrusted upon you. I ask that you approach your responsibilities with utmost diligence and dedication, striving to foster an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect during your deliberations. It is imperative to acknowledge the significance of your work in shaping the future of constitutionalism in Guyana,” the president underscored.

He continued, “Your ability to work together and achieve consensus will not only advance the cause of constitutional reform but also serve as an encouragement for greater political and social inclusion.

The nation’s constitution is a framework that guides governance, the allocation of power, the functions of the arm of state, and the rights of citizens, as highlighted by the president.

While the constitution could serve as a timeless blueprint for governance, reflecting enduring principles and values, the dynamic and evolving nature of society necessitates periodic updates and reform to remain relevant and effective.

“A constitution must remain a living document, and not become archaic. It must possess the capacity for adaption to be relevant and to effectively address new challenges, societal changes, and emerging issues, while still upholding its core principles and protecting the rights of citizens, address new challenges, [and] emerging issues,” President Ali stated.

The head of state added that the constitution is designed to embody the collective aspirations of people while safeguarding their rights and empowerment.

And so, “The constitution must be drafted in clear and accessible language, comprehensible to the average individual. This ensures that all citizens can understand their rights and obligations, thereby facilitating active participation in a democratic process and reinforcing the mutual understanding…,” he underlined.

Justice Carl Ashok Singh is the chairperson of the CRC

Justice Carl Ashok Singh is the chairperson of the CRC.

Attorney General, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, Ministers Gail Teixeira, Dr Frank Anthony, Pauline Sukhai, and Kwame McCoy are the government’s representatives on the commission.

Other commissioners include Vincent Alexander, Sherwood Lowe, Nigel Hughes, Ganesh Mahipaul, and Timothy Jonas (representatives of the APNU/AFC and joinder parties); Attorney Kamal Ramkarran from the Guyana Bar Association; Aslim Singh from the Labour Movement; Derrick John from the National Toshao Council; Ramesh Persaud from the Private Sector; Attorney Kim Kyte-Thomas from the women organisations; Dr Josh Kanhai from the youth organisations; Attorney Keoma Griffith from the Christian organisations; Imran Ally from the Muslim organisations; Radha Krishna Sharma from the Hindu organisations; and Attorney Adrian Anamayah as the farmers’ representative.

The commission will review the Constitution of Guyana to provide for the current and future rights, duties, liabilities, and obligations of the Guyanese people.

It will also implement reforms relating to elections and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), considering its composition, method of electing its chairman and members, and its jurisdiction over the national registration and electoral processes.

The commission will receive, consider, and evaluate submissions for changes to the constitution, after which these recommendations will be submitted to a standing committee for consideration by the National Assembly. This will be the third constitutional reform process in Guyana.

Constitutional reform has been long promised by political parties but is now being initiated by the current administration, which was outlined in its 2020-2025 manifesto.