Proposed amendments to electoral laws not intended for constitutional reform – Attorney General

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP, SC, has responded to the “misplaced” criticisms of the proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act (ROPA), noting that the proposals are not intended to see constitutional reform. 

In his weekly broadcast of ‘Issues in the News’, Tuesday evening, Minister Nandlall responded to a series of criticisms made by organisations, which he said, are only seeking to be “fashionable” by criticising the government without reading the “preambulatory basis upon which the amendments are predicated”.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall

Article 13, a civil society group claimed that the proposed amendments failed to “address the fundamental issues affecting elections in Guyana”.

The group in their missive, said there were several “key issues” with the laws governing elections, ranging from the composition of the commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to the introduction of independent individuals in the National Assembly.

Further, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) called for the reformation of GECOM, while asking the PPP/C Government to implement single-seat constituencies as part of the amendment proposal.

But Minister Nandlall said what the civil groupings fail to realise, is that many of the concerns raised by them are constitutional matters and cannot be addressed by the amendments currently being proposed.

“…their criticism is misplaced and has no basis in this equation. They call for a different political system. The political system we have in Guyana is one that is provided for in our constitution, the supreme law. We cannot change that as a singular political party or as a government. We do not have a sufficient number of votes in the National Assembly to do so, and we said that from the commencement of this exercise. So…[they] are misguided in [their] call because this exercise…does not intend to deliver that,” he explained.

The Attorney General lambasted the Guyana Human Rights Asociation for only becoming vocal when it seems appropriate to bash the government, as he said it  has become the fashionable thing to do.

AG Nandlall expressed concerns over the apparent silence of the body during the chaos that ensued after the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.

“For five long months when the constitutional right of the majority of the citizens of this country was under siege after the 2020 elections until August 2 when the government was sworn in, I can’t recall hearing a single word of condemnation or criticism coming from this organisation…the human rights of Guyanese were being trampled upon…but this organisation was conspicuously silent,” he asserted.

In response to the organisations’ call for the modification of the registration of voters law, the minister reminded that the government has already expressed commitment to amending and making these proposals public.

“As I said, we are going to do that, but we are going to do that in a second instalment of changes that will be proposed. We have made this clear over and over again, but these people don’t listen. They want to see themselves, I suppose, in the newspapers saying something…apparently, it is fashionable to be attacking the government of the day. So that is what they’re doing,” the legal affairs minister articulated.

The consultation process for the proposed amendments to the Representation of the Peoples Act continues across the country.  

The proposal includes amendments to laws which speak to the tabulation and publishing of elections results, the criteria for selecting an appropriate section, and the subdivision of District Four into four parts, among other things.

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance has been tasked by the President with executing and supervising the six-week consultation process. The government is also expected to release two other proposals relating to amendments of the laws governing the electoral process for consultation with members of civil society.