Guyana’s Parliament: The turbulent home of democracy and more
Guyana’s Parliament is not only considered the home of democracy and a forum for nail-biting discussions on matters of national interest, but equally important is the fact that it serves as an outstanding landmark with a rich, yet turbulent history to its name.
The Parliament of Guyana was created by the 1966 Constitution of Guyana, embodied in the Schedule of the Guyana Independence Order, made pursuant to the Guyana Independence Act, 1966.
The Guyana Independence Act was passed on 12th May 1966 and came into force on 26th May 1966. He said that the First sitting of the National Assembly of the First Parliament of Guyana Parliament was held on the 26th May 1966.
While the law enacting Guyana’s Parliament came into force on 26th May 1966, Isaacs said that it would be misleading to conclude that Guyana’s Parliamentary system was created at Independence.
In 1831, he said that the three Colonies of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice were united and the Colony of British Guiana was formed.
According to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, from the years 1831 to 1928, the Law Making Body of British Guiana was the Court of Policy. He explained that the Court of Policy consisted of the Governor, seven official members and eight elected members. The Governor presided in the Court of Policy as its President.
In 1928, the Clerk said that a new Constitution was introduced and British Guiana became a British Crown Colony. A Legislative Council was established and replaced the Dutch created Court of Policy.
In 1953, Isaacs explained that a new Constitution was promulgated and a bicameral legislature, consisting of a State Council and a House of Assembly was introduced.
According to information provided by the Parliament, the State Council consisted of nine members.
“The House of Assembly consisted of a Speaker, three ex-officio Members and twenty-four Elected Members. The Speaker was appointed by the governor. A new and separate Department, which was called the Office of the Legislature, was established with a Clerk of the Legislature as its head, to serve the new bicameral Legislature. Also in 1953 also a Ministerial system of Government and universal adult suffrage were introduced.”
Isaacs said that the Legislature that came into effect in May 1953 was short-lived as in October 1953 the British suspended the Constitution and an Interim Government was established by the British Guiana (Constitutional) (Temporary Provisions) Order in Council, 1953.
A Legislative council consisting of a Speaker, three ex officio Members and not more than twenty-four Nominated Members was created by this Order on the 22nd December 1953.
The Speaker, who was not an ex officio member or Nominated member of the Legislative Council, was appointed by the Governor.
In 1961, Isaacs said that a new Constitution was established and a bicameral legislature consisting of a Legislative Assembly and a Senate was created. He said that the Senate consisted of thirteen members, who were appointed by the Governor.
Of the thirteen members, eight were appointed by the Governor in accordance with advice of the Premier, three were appointed by the Governor acting in consultation with such persons as, in his discretion, he considered could have spoken for the political points of view of groups represented in the Legislative Assembly by members constituting the minority and two were appointed by the Governor acting in his discretion.
The Legislative Assembly consisted of thirty-five (35) members elected under the electoral system of First Past the Post. Elections were held in May 1961 and the Peoples Progressive Party won 21 of the 35 seats in the Legislative Assembly. A Council of Ministers consisting of a Premier and nine other Ministers was also created. The Council of Ministers had general direction and control of the country and was collectively responsible to the Legislature. The Council of Ministers and the Premier was all members of the Legislative Assembly.
The Premier was appointed by the Governor as a Member of the Legislative Assembly who was best able to command the confidence of a majority of members of the Legislative Assembly. The late Dr. Cheddi Jagan was appointed Guyana’s first Premier on the 6th of October, 1961.
According to the Clerk, the Public Buildings belong to all Guyanese. He said that visitors are welcome, and are expected to cooperate with security measures at all times.