Some one month after the Constitution Reform Report was handed over to Government, talks are yet to commence. However, President David Granger has stated that this will soon change as Cabinet is expected to start full discussions on the recommendations made.The report was handed over to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo on April 30 by Convener and Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Steering Committee (CRSC), Attorney Nigel Hughes. The Committee was established last August by Government.Speaking on his weekly televised programme – The Public Interest – on Friday, the Head of State noted that Constitution reform is part of the agenda of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Administration.“Nigel Hughes has already presented a preliminary report and we will be proceeding with discussing that report more fully,” he declared.As part of the reform process, Government had touted major changes to the governance structure, including separate elections to elect a President and National Assembly members; the capping of presidential powers; and changes to the composition of service commissions, among others.Government had promised that they will have consultations with civil society and the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) before making any Constitutional reforms; something, which the Guyanese Leader said on Friday that his Administration is committed to. He pointed out that widespread consultation with all stakeholders is needed before any such reforms is undertaken.“If it involves ‘taming’ the powers of the Executive, then so be it but let the people speak and don’t let us try to tell the people what to think. Let us find out what they need,” he posited.According to the President, in light of the many controversies that surrounded Constitution reforms over the last 40 years, it is imperative to go to the people and find out what they think.“We need to have consultations and we need to listen to them. Some people seemed to have jump to conclusions and they have their own ideas about the form that reforms should take. My view is that the people know best and it’s better to consult them,” the Head of State remarked.He went on to say that consultations will span the lengthen and breath of the country so that there is consensus about what Guyanese need in the their Constitution.“I don’t want a boardroom constitutional reform, I want a public discussion. I want people in their communities to meet and express their views. I don’t want a group of people sitting in a room saying what must be done,” he stated.Constitutional reform has been a very hot campaign issue. In its elections manifesto, the APNU/AFC coalition touted a number of constitutional reforms including presidential powers, sexual orientation and the electoral system.“The Constitution, in its current form, does not serve the best interest of Guyana or its people. Within three months of taking up office, APNU/AFC will appoint a commission to amend the Constitution with the full participation of the people. The new Constitution will put the necessary checks and balances in place to consolidate our ethos of liberal democracy. Freedom of speech, reduction of the power of the President and the Bill of Rights will be enshrined in the document,” read an excerpt from the manifesto.Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had also declared during an elections campaign over a year ago in Vreed-en-Hoop that too much power is concentrated on one person’s hands.Meanwhile, the Constitutional Reform Steering Committee will be responsible for effecting the changes to the Constitution when Government finalises its decision.The Committee which comprises of former Director of Transparency International and Attorney Gino Persaud, Professor Harold Lutchman, former Magsitrate Geeta Chandan-Edmond, and is chaired by Attorney and AFC Executive Member Nigel Hughes was established by the subcommittee on Parliamentary Affairs reportedly without consultation from the parliamentary Opposition.General Secretary of the PPP Clement Rohee had explained at the time last year that his party was not invited to field any representative to the Committee, while noting that at the moment, the Party has no interest in those matters as it is focused on preparing for Parliament.Rohee said that the Party views the persons appointed as “APNU/AFC hacks” and “residents of Office of the President”.“None of those persons are independent. They are all hacks and employees of the Office of the President in some shape or form. You do not have to even guess about which road they will venture down as it clear what their mandate is,” he stated.Moreover, he maintained that the PPP was proud of its accomplishments as far as constitutional reforms piloted back in the 2000s were concerned.
-UNPOL, EU Reps AlarmThe US$14.2M out of the US$16.3M allotted to the Liberia National Police (LNP) in the 2017/18 fiscal budget for compensation to include salaries for civilian and paramilitary personnel overshadowed the release of a report on the Security Actions for Everyone (SAFE) Project yesterday.An honorarium and special and general allowances were also captured in the US$14.2 million, with US$3.1 million accounting for “non-financial assets.”The US$3.1 million, the police said, was intended for support and operations during the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.The report, released in Monrovia, covered police facilities and operations in four of the 15 counties, including Bong, Lofa, Montserrado, and Nimba, as well as police-community engagement.It was jointly conducted by International Alert, Liberia National Law Enforcement Agency (LNLEA), and the Center for Justice and Peace Studies (CIPS) with funding from the European Union (EU).It comes in the midst of the reported deplorable condition of prison facilities and other logistical situations experienced by the police.Yesterday’s forum was attended by representatives of the EU, United Nations Police in Liberia (UNPOL), and authorities of the LNP, among others.Meanwhile, participants agreed for the establishment of a Policing Trust Fund to provide support for needed police operations that are not reflected in the national budget.In separate remarks, European Union representative Agniesille Napierala and UNPOL’s Tabitha Mbugua said they believe that the allotment was unfair and unbalanced to make the country a safer place.“The Government of Liberia needs to improve on the budget to settle the imbalance and unfair distribution in it,” Mbugua, who proxy for the UNPOL commander, noted.“Such an imbalance in the budget would make it very difficult to have a strong partnership with the community in terms of support,” she said.Napierala also said the budget, that is hugely dominated by salaries, does not ensure accountability and transparency in the operation of the police.“How will the police manage to support the Community Watch Forum that is providing security assistance in the country to ensure a safer Liberia with the allotment of US$14.2 million as salary payment to staff of the LNP?” Napierala wondered. “How will they improve on the deplorable condition of prison facilities throughout the country?”Police Deputy Inspector General for Manpower and Training, William Mulbah admitted the huge financial difficulty posed by the budgetary allotment.“With the over 5,000 police officers, to set aside US$14.2 million for salaries is unfair and demeaning, and we had to work on it,” Mulbah assured.Despite the huge salaries, Mulbah said, they have made significant efforts in improving the relationship between the police and the community to make the country peaceful and safe.“This is evidenced by our handling of the ongoing elections process and our engagement with the community in combating crimes and improving on civilian complaints against police officers,” he indicated.The report said some police stations in the four counties do not have the necessary logistics for effective operations.“Some do not even have typewriters or computers and printers, and they have to resort to using commercial typewriters for their office operations. Many officers do not have uniforms and accessories and so, they have resolved to wear t-shirts as uniforms,” the report indicated.Cecil B. Griffiths, the president of LNLEA who read the report, said: “Moreover, many police stations in the rural areas, such as Zorzor and Flumpa police stations in Lofa County are in very deplorable conditions and need urgent renovation while the Ganta Police Station in Nimba County is in need of expansion.”The report also frowned on civilians recruited to assist police to man checkpoints in the country.“Community members complained that some of the police aides are the ones creating problems for them and are even operating without the supervision of the commander of police,” the report noted.The report also recommended that the police budget should be re-framed to capture the need for police stations in the counties.“Community members recommended that each police station should at least have one vehicle or motorbike, a computer, printer, solar panel or generator with a regular supply of gasoline, stationery and supplies, one smartphone for internet connectivity and food for the upkeep of detainees and suspects,” the report said.“To provide information about police work, community members are recommending that every police station should provide monthly or quarterly statistics on crimes, arrests, prosecutions and information about complaint mechanisms,” it indicated.On police achievement, the report said: “The police authorities made strong effort to promote accountability by issuing a number of tags to officers for identification purposes. This is a highly commendable initiative and we hope that the LNP authority will follow-up to ensure that all officers will have their names on their tags. Regular meeting between the police and community members is ongoing in addition to the SAFE project community dialogue; they are also having a regular policing forum in the various communities.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)