THE REPORT OF THE WADDINGTON COMMISSION
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At the end of its sittings, the Commission departed for Britain to prepare its final report. The Chairman, Sir E. J. Waddington, recommended to the body that they should agree to the introduction of a unicameral legislature with 18 elected, 6 nominated and 3 official members appointed by the Colonial Office. However, the two other Members, Harlow and Hinden, argued against nominated members in the unicameral legislature since they felt that such a body would be packed "with the Governor's friends". They made recommendations which formed the basis of the final constitution that was subsequently handed down. These proposals suggested a bicameral legislature with a State Council or Upper House which would be totally nominated.
In its Report presented on 29 June 1951 to the Labour Government in Britain, the Waddington Commission made the following proposals for British Guiana's new constitution:
1. Universal adult suffrage would be introduced in the forthcoming elections. All persons 21 years and over would have the right to vote. The literacy qualification would be abolished.
2. There would be a bi-cameral legislature with a life of four years. This would be made up of:
(a) A House of Assembly of 24 elected members and 3 other official members appointed by the Colonial Office. These three members would be the Chief Secretary, the Financial Secretary and the Attorney General. This House would be presided over by a Speaker appointed by the Governor from outside the Legislature, but he would have no vote.
(b) A State Council comprising of nine members to be appointed by the Governor. Six of these were to be appointed by the Governor at his discretion, two on the recommendation of the six elected Ministers, and one appointed after consultation with the independent and minority party members of the House of Assembly. One of these nine was to be chosen by the others as president of the Council.
3. There would be an Executive Council consisting of the Governor as Chairman with a casting vote, the six elected Ministers, the three Colonial Office appointees in the House of Assembly, and a member of the State Council, to be designated Minister without Portfolio.
4. The Governor would hold reserve veto powers for use at his discretion in the interests of "public order, public faith and good government", but he would be bound automatically to act in accordance with the advice of the Executive Council.
5. Certain money bills could be delayed in the State Council for up to three months and other bills for up to one year.
6. The three official members would hold the important portfolios of Foreign Affairs, Police, Law and Order, Defence and Finance. The Commission was adamant that these portfolios could not yet be transferred with confidence to elected Ministers.
The Commission also declared that Guyana was not yet ready for internal self-government, and that checks to be carried out by the nominated State Council would "form an integral part of democratic government".
According to the Commission's proposals, the Leader of the House - the title of the chief of the elected Ministers - would be devoid of any power.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies of the British Labour Party Government felt that the Waddington Commission was too liberal in its recommendations, and he suggested that the number of Ministers should be reduced to five, with the right of selecting those Ministers granted to the three Colonial Office nominated members!
The PPP raised strong objection to this backward proposal. However, the Labour Party was voted out of power in the British elections, and the new Conservative Party Government upheld the recommendations of the Waddington Commission. Towards the end of 1951, the Waddington Constitution was officially declared to be that under which a new Government would be elected and formed in 1953.
Despite the limitations of the new Constitution, it was much more advanced than that under which the 1947-1953 Government operated. The election of the 14 members of that Legislature was based on a restricted franchise with property, income and literacy qualifications. A smaller number of other members nominated by the Governor and the Colonial Office also made up the legislature, over which the Governor and the Colonial Office had total authority. There was no ministerial system and the Governor could veto any bill.
The Report of the Waddington Commission immediately came under attack from the PPP, which by then had become even more organised following its first Congress just a few months before. Writing in the Thunder of November 1951, Forbes Burnham, the Chairman of the Party, said that the Report succeeded "in illustrating that indeed the State is an instrument designed to maintain the dominance of the ruling class and that there is no advance to be gained except by relentless and determined struggle." And in the Legislative Council in January 1952, Dr. Jagan attacked the Waddington Constitution as being merely a fake and another tactic of the British colonialists to perpetrate exploitation and maintain the old order. He urged the struggle for immediate self-government.
An official statement of the program of the PPP issued in January 1952 described the Waddington Constitution as a "new formula for the continued subjugation of our people".
The Thunder of September 1952 predicted the dictatorial use of the veto powers by the Governor under the new Constitution. It added: "Our Party will never rest until these checks and veto powers are completely removed."