August 26 2019
Reference is being made to yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek article `CCJ has failed Guyana, it’s now up to GECOM Chair – Ramkarran.’ I beg to strongly differ with the opinion of Ralph Ramkarran SC that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has failed Guyana in its ruling of 12th July 2019. The CCJ has not failed Guyana. Our politicians and some opinion shapers and institutions have failed and continue to fail Guyana by not seeking to understand the Constitution of Guyana and in applying their skewed interpretation to the CCJ ruling.
Shame and disgrace on Ramkarran that he can seek to bring the CCJ into disrepute, the highest decision-making forum for judicial settlement, put together by CARICOM, comprising of the best judicial minds in the Region. Now he seeks to put CARICOM to disgrace. How much longer are the people of Guyana going to allow this to happen and if we don’t wake up to see what is happening in this country. I hope the international community and CARICOM are taking note. There is an ongoing effort to disrupt social order, law and order in Guyana.
What is becoming evidently clear is the presence of political mischief, the absence of understanding of the Constitution, and the willful distortion of it. Ralph Ramkarran was Chairman of the 1999 Constitution Reform Commission which grew out of agreement between President Janet Jagan and Leader of the Opposition Desmond Hoyte. Society was expecting of him to be a good steward of this achievement not only in aiding to bring understanding but also to realise legislation in the National Assembly to give meaning to the articles within the constitution. The absence of these is contributing to the conundrum we face today.
Even more disturbing is the stubbornness to hold fast to positions not ensconced in the Constitution or the court’s ruling. Our politicians and affected opinion shapers have to acknowledge, silently or publicly, they have erred and move to now do what’s right by the constitution and ruling. Refusing to budge from hardline positions will not realise the advancement of this nation’s interest. Seeking to impugn the reputation of the CCJ when persons have first failed to study and understand the ruling does not say much of those engaging in such conduct.
The CCJ did its job consistent with the Constitution. The failure to adhere to its ruling has brought to the fore absence of political will, disregard for the instrument and unpreparedness to comply with same, tendencies that are hurting. The ruling has entrusted a tripartite working relationship on the actors- the President, the National Assembly, and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). This nation cannot proceed in a lawful and orderly manner when one, two or all the actors refuse to uphold their constitutional and judicial responsibilities.
It is not lost on me, and I am sure others, the absence of national outcry to hold the Leader of the Opposition equally accountable to the CCJ’s ruling. The National Assembly cannot achieve the two-thirds vote needed to satisfy the “or such longer period” to hold the election consistent with Article 106(7). Guyana needs the vote of both sides of the House and where Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo has failed to communicate a change of mind and return to the National Assembly to grant that vote nothing will be done at this level of the ruling.
It may be convenient or of political advantage to demand of the President and GECOM to comply with the ruling but to ignore the equal responsibility of the National Assembly which the Opposition comprises does not help. We have an interim Government, an interim Opposition and the substantive constitutionally independent GECOM. To ask of GECOM to do what is not within its scope of constitutional responsibility is again either a demonstration of disregard for the constitution or the court’s ruling.
GECOM Chair Justice Claudette Singh SC has been discharging the work of the Commission. She must be allowed to lead that commission free of bullyism or outside interference. Her selection and appointment have been arrived at through a consensus process which is consistent with the CCJ’s ruling. Calls must be made to the interim Government and the interim Opposition for a meeting of minds in order that together they uphold their constitutional and judicial responsibilities.
This nation is hurting today for want of constitutional education, progressive political direction and integrity from those who society have been conditioned to look up to and rely on.