Constitution, rule of law must be preserved as constitutional crisis looms – Ram
With mere days remaining before a possible constitutional crisis, political commentator Christopher Ram has emphasised the need for Guyanese and political parties to come together to uphold democracy and the Constitution in Guyana.
Ram was at the time speaking at a town-hall meeting, where he moderated a panel of representatives from the various political parties, held on Saturday at the Theatre Guild.
“I am saying that we, as political parties, and we, as citizens, will have to take actions to prevent the institutionalisation of our democracy and the usurpation of our Constitution… I’m advocating any legitimate and legal form of action to preserve our Constitution and the rule of law,” he asserted.
The social commentator pointed to a recent discussion programme he was part of with Third Vice President and Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan, who had contended that the coalition Government could invoke the ‘doctrine of necessity’.
“Now here it is, they have brought about a crisis and then decided ‘we will stay in office because of a necessity’,” Ram noted.
He mentioned that Ramjattan had cited a Court of Appeal ruling by Justice JOF Haynes in relation to events in Grenada. But Ram outlined that the prerequisites for a doctrine of necessity states that an imperative necessity must arise because of the existence of exceptional circumstances not provided for in the Constitution; and that there must not be no other course of action reasonably available and any such action must be reasonably necessary in the interest of peace, order, and good government.
“This government has violated all those conditions set out by Justice Haynes in the Grenade Court of Appeal. So, I come back to situation, what are we going to do? Are we going to take the defeatist attitude … or we go back to a situation where we had our Constitution challenged in the 70s and 80s, where the political parties got together through a ‘Patriotic Coalition of Democracy’, I think it was called, and say we will not put up with this?” Ram, also a practising lawyer, questioned.
Furthermore, the political commentator, in lamenting the coalition Government’s ongoing violation of the Constitution, went on to talk about the cases on the no-confidence motion currently before the Appeal Court.
He pointed out that the Judges derive their powers from the Constitution and as such, questioned the manner in which they will act.
“… what will they do? Will they continue to uphold the Constitution which they know has been violated? The Chief Justice has ruled that implication of non-compliance will be violation. Will our (Appeal Court) now respect that usurping government as a legal authority? Will our public officers, the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Finance Secretary, allow the payment of funds that are clearly unconstitutional and unlawful …,” he asked.
Only last Thursday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had reiterated that the coalition Government is using the courts to deliberately delay the constitutionally-mandated General and Regional Elections in order to hang on to power. He asserted that the January 31 rulings of acting Chief Justice Roxane George were profound so no amount of foreign representation could change it.
“For every single argument that is being made now (by Government), she struck them down with the most formidable of reasoning … So the nonsensical arguments and whoever they bring from the Region, they can pay the highest-price lawyers from anywhere in the world, but it won’t change the reality … And where are these arguments leading us? We’re just delaying everything. The court is being used to delay the elections,” Jagdeo maintained.
In fact, many other commentators also believe that the Government is using the courts as a deliberate means to delay the holding of General and Regional Elections, which were constitutionally mandated to be held by March 21, which is three days ways.
However, President David Granger has insisted that there was no attempt by his Government to delay the hosting of polls and he was awaiting the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to guide him on its level of readiness before he could set a date for the polls.
But the elections body has indicated that it could not hold polls before the March 21 deadline and has voted to do house-to-house registration which will conclude in November.
The Opposition, in recent statements, had called out the Head of State for his duplicity regarding elections, noting that he rejected a work plan put forward by one of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Commissioners on GECOM. This proposal caters for the holding of elections before April 30 when the voters’ list will expire.
But in a subsequent statement on Saturday, the Ministry of the Presidency said that the President has not rejected the April work plan, but rather has asked that it be submitted to GECOM instead.
Nevertheless, during an emergency meeting at GECOM on Thursday, the Opposition’s Commissioners were forced to walk out after the Government-nominated Commissioners sidelined the motion on its proposal to discuss other matters.
With only three more days before the deadline expires, Opposition Leader Jagdeo has already engaged several international bodies and the diplomatic community here to not recognise the coalition Government after March 21.