EYEWITNESS: Changes…in the Constitution


There are folks who’ve been stamping their feet and screaming “constitutional change or else!!”  After our history with constitutional change in Guyana, you wonder where this demand is coming from!! And Lord knows, we’ve been changing Constitutions in this country like some folks change drawers!! The British were fond of changing Constitutions whenever the rights promised in their latest iteration started to be taken seriously – and ordinary folks started to get power in their hands!! Can’t do!!

Back in 1891, the local Coloured and Portuguese middle class started getting voted into office and demanding all sorts of rights for themselves:  like having a right to ask how their taxes were being spent!! Imagine the gall?? Did they think they were sugar planters??!! It wasn’t long before a “Crown Colony Constitution” was imposed and put matters right!! The Governor was now the supremo and could control the Government through his appointive power!!

By 1950, we had another Constitution which resulted in a PPP Government coming to power in 1953. They lasted a whole 133 days before the Constitution was changed to throw them out!! And so it went…Independence Constitution in 1966 after the PNC decided to back the colonials and betray the country…1980 Constitution to make Burnham supreme leader for life…2000 constitutional reform  with hundreds of changes – like reducing the powers of the President, etc…But here we are, demanding more of what clearly hasn’t worked.

Now, you’d think after all these horrible experiences with Constitutions and Constitutional Change, folks would’ve gotten a bit leery about pushing for more of the same. But no siree, Bob!! The Attorney General has assured the members of the Opposition in the “Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform” that this coming week he’ll submit the terms of reference, etc, of the Commission that had been announced by Pres Ali for debate.

But your Eyewitness will tell you what…and bet you dollars to donuts – the only thing coming out of this  exercise will be another opportunity for the Opposition to scream bloody murder, stage new protests that may end up with some condign beatings of some hapless perceived PPP supporters. Sure, some well-meaning people will deliver well-thought-out proposals – most likely based on some institution or other that works in some other country. But have they considered that there may be particular circumstances in those countries that make them work?? And that we may not necessarily possess those conditions?? Let’s face it, shall we?? We really can’t grow oak trees here, can we?

And another thing that was said by the fella who wrote the Indian Constitution.  “However good a Constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad’!!

…in (PNC) financial institutions

Your Eyewitness has a good chuckle when he read a Trade Unionist knocking the PPP’s housing drive and praising the miserably failed PNC attempt. Specifically, he mentioned a “Guyana Cooperative Mortgage Finance Bank” (GCMFB), which financed low-income housing from Government funds. Your Eyewitness will quote without comment from the 1993 World Bank report that recommended it be shuttered!!

“GCMFB has had no new sources of additional funds since 1988 and thus has funded itself exclusively from loan recoveries, currently estimated at G$1 million (US$8,000) per month. With a staff of 51 and four branches, this is a very small revenue base to cover administrative costs. In 1991, salaries and benefits absorbed 45% of total revenues) and other operating expenses absorbed 37% of total revenues.”

“The Government should accelerate the granting of titles and…allocate the large public sector holdings of unused land…to housing…The Government also might undertake targeted programs to assist low-income families to maintain and rehabilitate their homes.”

Like the PPP’s doing!!

…in royalty

Your Eyewitness was tickled pink to learn that some African Royalty will be gracing our not-so-fair land for Emancipation. We hope the organisers will be teaching us the protocols of interacting with them so we don’t look TOO gauche!!