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Reply to "Ralph Ramkarran dons his tatty "Civil Society" robes . . . attempting to force GECOM Chairwoman into acquiescence to the UNDEMOCRATIC PPP will"

Declaration of Sophia
Address by the Leader of the People's National Congress, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, at a Special Party Congress to mark the 10th Anniversary of the P.N.C in Government.
Venue: Plantation Sophia, Georgetown, Guyana.
Date: 14th December, 1974


Constitutional Reform

5.9 You will remember that on at least three occasions recently we have been faced with the need to amend the Constitution, in pursuit of our declared programme and policy, which have gained the support of the overwhelming majority of Guyanese, including some who are opposed to the P.N.C.

These occasions arose when we sought to nationalise Demba, when we abolished the Privy Council as the Nation's Final Court of Appeal and when we reduced the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen. We still have to deal with the social use of land and other property and the introduction of the Agency Shop.

5.10 Earlier today I spoke of the "typical Independence Constitution with all its inhibitions and checks and balances" which we had to accept as part of the package in 1966. Certainly it is clear that this patchwork of amendments from time to time is both unsatisfactory, untidy, and un-aesthetic, and that the moment has arrived for a review and rewriting of the Guyana Constitution.

The drafting and subsequent promulgation of a new Constitution will, therefore, be undertaken shortly, that is from January 1975. This is a project in which the Party, the Public and finally the Parliament will be fully and openly involved.

5.11 As we complete our tenth year in office, and proceed to the country's tenth anniversary of independence, we cannot do so with a Constitution out of step with modern trends, and our own ideas and ideologies; a Constitution which reflects for the most part the beliefs and ideology of our former imperialist masters; a Constitution which was taken out of the drawer, so to speak, as were several others for various ex-British colonies; with the minimum relevancy to the Guyanese peoples' needs, aspirations and thrusts. The Constitution must go and in its place a new and relevant Constitution must be substituted.

5.12 But back to the question of land ownership and occupation. It is clear that in too many cases privately owned land which can and should be put under cultivation as part of the national effort is not under the plough or is used for exploitation.

We must produce more for the use of our population, and old concepts have to be swept aside in the wake of the socialist revolution. Earlier next year, legislation will be presented to limit large holdings and specify the maximum holdings permitted to private individuals or companies. The main criteria will be capacity to use productively and the end of landlordism.