Your Eyewitness was intrigued by the tail end of yesterday’s editorial in this newspaper, which dealt with the Government’s claim that Charandass Persaud’s no-confidence vote was invalid because of his dual citizenship with Canada, as per Art 155 (1). “…under the doctrine of “desuetude”, which deals with laws that have not been enforced for long periods, the Court should not compel enforcement of Art 155 (1) in this case.”
Desuetude? How the heck do you even pronounce the word? (“Des-wi-tude” said the dictionary!). But the esoteric word brought home the point that’s been niggling your Eyewitness for the past five years. That the PNC-led coalition’s been so aggressive in pushing its authoritarian agenda, the Opposition has had to take recourse to the Courts time and again to protest the PNC playing fast and loose with the constitutional provisions governing our democracy. Meanwhile, the Guyanese public – including yours truly – has been forced to know more about constitutional law than they ever wanted to know!
For months we were enlightened on the word “or” as used in Art 161 (2) as to who could be appointed GECOM Chair: “… a judge or any other fit and proper person”. The President insisted that the “disjunctive” “or” actually meant that followed it didn’t mean anything different from what preceded. So we now have Art 161 (1) saying the fella had to be “a judge or a judge”!! Hence, Judge James Patterson.
Then we had another few months of edification on another part of Art 161 (2) which states (very clearly, your Eyewitness thought) that the individual would be “appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President” provided by the Opp Leader. And only if there were NO list provided, could the President appoint someone on his lonesome. Silly me!! According to the Courts, it seems the OL has to be clairvoyant and not submit a SINGLE name that’s unacceptable to the President!! Bucket to fetch water?
And we return to the doctrine of desuetude with some disquiet to consider how the Court may parse Art 155 (1): “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who – (a) is by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state…” was introduced with the brand new Constitution Burnham enacted in 1980. Since then there’s never been a SINGLE INVOCATION of it to disqualify an MP – even though there were HUNDREDS who fit the profile.
Doesn’t this STRONGLY suggest that Art 155 (1) has lapsed through deliberate non-use – desuetude?
Or will the Court support its opportunistic Lazarustic rise from the dead?
…right vs privilege
From what’s been floating around, there’s a lot of confusion about the RIGHT of Charandass to vote his conscience. A “right” is inherent in you and can’t be taken away by any other person or entity. It’s not a “privilege”, which is something that’s granted to you from a source outside of you and, therefore, can be taken away by that same source.
Not because Charandass is a member of a party he has to stifle his conscience and always vote the party line. That’s what all political parties DESIRE and even DEMAND…but they can’t compel their MPs’ vote. They may RECALL the MP for such behaviour – which the AFC did. But in Guyana the PNC and now the AFC see a conscience as a BETRAYAL, evidently for which there can be “condign” action taken.
The day after the vote, PNC Minister Simona “I is” Broomes, calling Charandass Persaud a “Judas” boomed out to her “fans” on Facebook:
“We allowed the gentleman to leave the parliament!” Imagine that…”allowed”!
What’s this noise about the Canadian Embassy providing safe passage for Charandass Persaud to Ogle Airport??
Didn’t Public Security Minister Ramjattan assure us his government ensured Persaud left the country safely – even to the point of “using the authority of the Commissioner of Police”?