While the law enacting Guyana’s Parliament came into force on 26th May, 1966, it would be misleading to conclude that Guyana’s Parliamentary system was created at Independence.
In 1831 the three Colonies of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice were united and the Colony of British Guiana was formed. From the years 1831 to 1928 the Law Making Body of British Guiana was the Court of Policy. 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 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 a new Constitution was promulgated and a bicameral legislature, consisting of a State Council and a House of Assembly was introduced. 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.
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 1956 the British Guiana (Constitutional) (Temporary Provisions) Order in Council was amended. The Legislative Council appointed under the British Guiana (Constitution) (Temporary Provisions) Order in Council was dissolved with effect from 29th June, 1957.
In 1957 general elections were held and the PPP Jaganite under the leadership of Dr. CheddiJagan won the elections. A second Legislative Council constituted under the (British Guiana (Constitution) Temporary Provisions) Orders in Council 1953 and 1956 was appointed. The Legislative Council consisted of the Speaker, three ex – officio members, fourteen elected members and eleven nominated members.
In 1961 a new Constitution was established and a bicameral legislature consisting of a Legislative Assembly and a Senate was created. 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. Dr. CheddiJagan was appointed Guyana’s first Premier on the 6th of October, 1961.
The Parliament of Guyana is uni-cameral and consists of the President and the National Assembly. In accordance to article 65 of the Constitution, the Parliament of Guyana is empowered to make laws for the peace, order, and good governance of Guyana. This power is exercised by bills passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President.
The life of the Parliament of Guyana is five years. In accordance with article 70 (3) of the Constitution, Parliament shall, unless sooner dissolved, continue for five years from the date the National Assembly first meets after any dissolution and shall then stand dissolve.
The President is the Supreme Executive Authority and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. He is not a Member of the National Assembly but is empowered under article 67 of the Constitution to attend and address the Assembly at any sitting. He may also send messages to the Assembly, which may be read by the Prime Minister or by any other Minister designated to do so. The President may also address the Assembly on the state of the nation whenever he desires.
The National Assembly consist of sixty five (65) elected members. Forty (40) are elected from the National “Top- Up” portions of the List of Candidates and 25 are elected from Geographical Constituencies. The National Assembly can also have non- elected Members. The non- elected Members are those Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries who are appointed from among persons who are not elected Members of the Assembly. Up to four Ministers and two Parliamentary Secretaries can be appointed from non-elected persons.The Assembly therefore have no more than seventy-two (72) members.