– Says present electoral system should be reviewed, possibly replacedBy Samuel SukhnandanThe need for constitutional reform has been touted over the past few years, especially since the current coalition Government had made a commitment to ensuring that this is done; but there seems to be some hesitation on the part of both Government and the Parliamentary Opposition to get the ball rolling in this regard.In fact, many persons in civil society have spoken out against the current administration for its silence on the matter, especially because it had been a campaign promise. Adding his take on the matter, former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament Dr. Kwame Gilbert feels that now is the right time.“The call for constitutional reform cannot be any louder than it is right now. TheFormer PPP Member of Parliament and Presidential Advisor, Dr. Kwame Gilbertjustification for it is in the continuous need to strengthen governance, balance the power of the executive, and ensure a more accountable and responsive Government,” he told <> in an interview.According to Dr. Gilbert, the Constitution which Guyana inherited post-independence, while it has benefited from several significant constitutional amendments, still remains inadequate in addressing what he described as “mischief endemic in, and symptomatic of, our current sociopath-political realities in Guyana.”He said, “There are several social and political considerations which distinguish Guyana from the rest of her Caribbean and continental neighbours. These distinctive characteristics demand a particular culture, climate, and conduct, which can only be secured through constitutional provisions.”Dr. Gilbert also noted that Guyana has suffered extensively from the attending evils consistent with the continued use of what he also described as a backward proportional representation (PR) electoral system. This is an electoral system in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them.“This system has created and maintained political polarisation and ethnic tension consistent with a single-party domination system of politics. The PR system, commonly referred to as the party list system, robs the citizens of true representation, and has zero accountability. It is woefully ineffective in building a strong democracy,” Dr Gilbert opined.The former Social Policy Advisor to the previous PPP Administration said he feels the First Past the Post (FPTP) system is a more effective system, and particularly at this juncture of Guyana’s development. He noted that some have even touted a PR/FPTP hybrid system as a workable model.While he did not seek to commend First World countries, which do have their share of corrupted democracies, he said it would still be instructive to consider that countries such as the USA, UK, India and Canada are using the FPTP system, and do enjoy a greater degree of political accountability and stability.InadequaciesPoliticians, according to him, have for far too long been the sole beneficiaries of the exploitation of inadequacies and inefficiencies in the Guyana Constitution. “It would be safe to conclude that our Constitution is perfectly suited for the results we are having. To change the results, we change the system; in this case, reform the Constitution. There will be no urgency or political will to have reforms if those who benefit from the inadequacies in a system are the custodians of the Constitution,” he added.Dr Gilbert told Guyana Times that the Constitution fortunately does not belong to politicians. Rather, it belongs to every Guyanese. And he therefore believes that it is the responsibility of every Guyanese to demand that Constitutional reform become a top priority before another general election, and before the much anticipated oil production, both slated for the year 2020.As to the commitment of the coalition Government to deliver on its campaign promise, the former PPP MP said that, regrettably, he has no confidence in the coalition to deliver on that promise. He also feels the current parliamentary Opposition has not made Constitutional reform a priority either.Dr. Gilbert strongly believes the political directorates of both the APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) and the PPP have had sufficient time and opportunity to act on their so -called commitment to Constitutional reform, but there has only been rhetoric and no results.“I rather suspect that politicians have deduced that our citizens are gullible and easily forgiving, hence broken promises will have very little political consequence. It is for that reason that they continue to make and break promises but still enjoy the support of their constituents. But for the sake of Guyana’s children, I hope that enough pressure will be brought to bear, and Constitutional reforms will be tangibly realised.”Dr. Gilbert said a very important effort in moving this process forward would be to maintain joint pressure, both from the citizens of Guyana as well as the international community.