The Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana. It outlines the branches and powers of Government, establishes qualifications and times for elections, lists basic human rights and sets up independent institutions to protect these rights. All laws made by Parliament must be in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution. This means that any law that is in conflict with the Constitution is unconstitutional, in other words, it is not valid.
Since Independence in May 1966, there have been many significant constitutional amendments in Guyana. In 1970 amendments were made proclaiming Guyana a Co-operative Republic. The British Monarch was replaced by a Ceremonial President elected for a fixed term. The 1980 Constitution identified the President as the Head of State and the Supreme Executive Authority and established a system of local democratic organs. There have been 12 amendments to the 1980 Constitution, five of which were temporary in nature, to facilitate the 1992 national elections.
On 1st December, 1994, the National Assembly passed a resolution which established the Special Select Committee to Review the Constitution and directed it to present a proposal for its reform before the 1997 general and regional elections. The Select Committee first met in May 1996. Fifty Public meetings across the 10 regions were convened by the Committee to solicit public participation in the reform process. Many written and oral submissions for constitutional reform were received from all sectors of society. The disillusion of Parliament on 29th October, 1997 precluded the Special Select Committee from finishing its work.
Early in 1999 an Act of Parliament established the Constitutional Re¬form Commission. It successfully completed its tasks and submitted its report to the National Assembly by the due date of 17th July, 1999. The Commission made 171 recommendations for constitutional amendments. All amendments, with the exception of those requiring a referendum, have been passed into Acts of Parliament.