Constitutional Reform in Guyana in PPP Interest
Photo : Guyana Dictator, Forbes Burnham (1923-85)
Anil Nandlall, Bharrat Jagdeo, Donald Ramotar and a sleuth of other PPP officials as well as those at the Dr. Jagan Research Center, members of PPP controlled NDCs, etc. have been getting a taste of the raw power of the PNC-controlled state as the PNC sends out its agents after them – harassing and intimidating them, violating norms, rules, laws, principles, and judicial edicts, etc. The PNC has been using the unchecked state powers inscribed in the fraudulent Burnham constitution (not that it has ever needed any written powers when in government) to emaciate (through political witch hunting, racial victimization, etc.) the opposition PPP and its supporters. Yet these very victims of the PNC state and those who have suffered untold abuses (violation of rights) under the Burnham constitution are supportive of it. Jagdeo and Nandlall recently stated they see nothing wrong with the Burnham constitution. They are badly mistaken in their belief. There are inherent dangers in that position and PPP officials are forewarned as they had on other matters which they also ignored. Sharing power is better than no power.
There is a lot wrong with the Burnham constitution that confers absolute power on the President and his government – a near monarchy that does not serve the people’s interests. One is reminded that Dr.Jagan and the PPP opposed the Burnham constitution from the date of its imposition in 1980 till PPP was installed into office in October 1992. Once the PPP was in office, the constitution was good. Prior to that Jagan and others like myself waged a long battle against the constitution and fraudulent elections. Nandlall and Jagdeo were too young to remember that struggle, and as such may have not appreciated our contributions to the struggle for the restoration of democratic rule in Guyana. The constitution is bad news for PPP, its supporters and indeed all of Guyana – as from previous experience when the PNC used it to persecute Indians and other non-supporters like Amerindians, Chinese and Portuguese. It must be replaced to guarantee democratic governance.
When one is exercising or sees himself as soon capturing power, one is blinded of political reality – the near possibility (based on one’s ego) of exercising unrestrained power against political opponents, critics and even one’s own supporters (as happened under the PPP post 2006). So the Constitution looks inviting and appetizing, and one is supportive of it. Rational thoughts (from political scientists, intellectuals and scholars) are thrown out the window and one does not want to know or hear the other side or the consequences of defeat – what if one loses an election or is out of power (and out of power permanently through electoral fraud as happened between 1965 and 1992). Then you and your supporters are at the mercy of the PNC ruler (dictator as previously happened). That has been happening over the last year. Why then take risks with the future of your people under a fraudulent Constitution in which you are not certain of the outcome and when you know that under the Burnham Constitution one side shows no respect for law and order or kindness towards your party members or even your supporters? Is it not better to advocate for a Constitution with restrained powers or even shared powers and decentralization in which case even if you lose an election, your party and your supporters have some say in the running of the country and control over the local area where they live?
PPP officials need be reminded that the constitution was never approved by the people as required in the Constitution or the one (1966 Independence Constitution) it replaced. The PNC rigged elections to remain in office. And all evidence point to a questionable outcome in the May 2015 elections. Even the PPP has claimed the 2015 election was rigged. And all indications are the 2020 elections will be rigged. The PPP itself has contended that the infrastructure for rigging is being put into place. And even if the election were free and fair, there is no guarantee of a PPP victory because of the declining number of the party’s supporters and its increasing inability to lure support from the other side. So why then support a Constitution in which your chances of victory to exercise power under it are virtually nil? Is it not better to pursue constitutional reforms to shift power away from the center, the Presidency and towards the people in the NDCs and the Regional Administrations? There is a guarantee of being in office under a reformed constitution and near zero possibility otherwise - under the Burnham Constitution.