1980 Burnham Constitution to keep Guyana stifled

Editor, I spoke recently about that fact that Mr. Jagdeo and the PPP do not support constitutional reform because of the 23 years they were able to use the 1980 Burnham Constitution to keep Guyana stifled. They are now saying that breaches to the constitution are their reason for a lack of their support of any reform. That is like someone saying, “I will not leave this broken relationship until my husband or wife stops abusing me.”

What the PPP are doing is running down the clock until the next general elections where they realize that they stand a good chance of winning because the Coalition is substantially weakened as the AFC (Indian voters) are pledging to return to the PPP fold, while the other AFC supporters are begging for a 3rd party.

If the argument of Mr. Jagdeo is that the constitution is broken and that the PNC-Coalition is compounding the brokenness, would it not stand to reason that these are all the more causes to speed up the reform process? Who does Mr. Jagdeo think he is fooling? He is stalling.

I was a part of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) that was formed  in the 80’s. Several of Guyana’s opposition parties were a part of this PCD; including the PPP and the WPA.  Dr. Cheddie Jagan was a frequent figure when we met for consultations on ways to bring about free and fair elections in Guyana. One of the most discussed items on our agenda was the reformation of the “Burnham Constitution” because we saw how it divided the country and how it was oppressive. We got President Jimmy Carter to support us and he eventually came to Guyana and convened a process that eventually brought about the change we all longed for.

Imagine then my complete frustration that after 23 years of PPP unilateral rule, we still have the most repressive components of the 1980 constitution being used to retard Guyana’s development and harmony. Recently, the Prime Minister, Mr. Nagamootoo brought in some UN experts to discuss the process to constitutional reform. When the three-man team visited the PPP office, they were told that the PPP will only support the reforms if the PNC institutes the outstanding Commissions. A few weeks ago the Carter Center sponsored a forum at the UG Turkeyen Campus, to discuss the way forward on constitutional reform. Again, none of the PPP representatives were there.

How can you say that you support constitutional reform and yet be placid about any drive that would facilitate it? Dr. Jagan must be turning in his preverbal grave.

Jagdeo is appearing to be concerned about the involvement of the British and the UN, as if those entities will do anything to the constitution that Jagdeo and the PPP cannot have altered. It takes 2/3 of the Parliament to amend the constitution. Again this is just the stalling game of Jagdeo.

Jagdeo knows full well that the PNC have zero appetite for the amendments to anything Burnham. The PNC tried to reform the party by adding “Reform” to its name (PNC-R). Where is that Reform today? Where is even the “R”? Mr. Nagamootoo, an outsider inside the PNC, is playing along with the PPP because he too knows that Jagdeo only wants to get back into power; he cares nothing about any substantial reforming of the constitution. The Burnham Constitution is just fine for a young dictator like him.

So it is the Guyanese people who are being made fools and pawns in this power struggle between these two parties. Until there is an objective, mitigating force in the parliament to formally institute articles for the amendment of the Guyana Constitution, it is not likely to happen.