The political crisis in which we have become mired because of the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led Government’s refusal to obey the dictates of our Constitution after the successful No-confidence Motion brought by the Opposition, brings to mind an observation of the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant.
“The problem of organising a State, however hard it may seem, can be solved, even for a race of devils, if only they are intelligent. The problem is, given a multitude of rational beings requiring universal laws for their preservation, but each of them is sincerely inclined to exempt himself from them, to establish a Constitution in such a way, although their private intentions conflict, they check each other, with the result that their public conduct is the same as if they had no such intentions.”
And this is the nub of our problem: the PNC voted for reintroduction of the no-confidence clause in the slew of constitutional changes approved in 2000. In the tradition of parliamentary government, long established in Westminster, it forced the Government to demonstrate that it retained the legitimacy to govern, by demonstrating it retained the majority of the National Assembly.
Immediately after the motion was carried, the Prime Minister, who represents the President in the National Assembly said: “Guyanese must understand that the democratic process is sometimes unpredictable. You may have results that are not planned for and, like cricket, democracy could be a game of great uncertainty. But the outcome has to be accepted.” He repeated this in his column, captioned, “The historic no-confidence vote”. The following day, President Granger announced, “Govt will abide by constitutional requirements following N-confidence Motion.” Yet, the week after, thrown a contrived lifeline, the PNC sought refuge in the courts to “exempt” its Government from obeying the Constitution.
President Granger took the high ground, at least in his public pronouncements. But at this juncture of our history, he has the opportunity to move from rhetoric to action by following the further advice Kant proposed to create a solution to the inevitable conflicts in societies such as ours, caused by those who would seek to exempt themselves from the constitutional rules. He proposed that institutions, as with all normative behaviour, would have to satisfy the “categorical imperative”.
Which is to, “Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law: which if followed, would ensure the person(s) behaving in accordance with it, are behaving morally.” As one whose Minister of State declared to be a Christian, President Granger would undoubtedly recognise the similarity of the categorical imperative with the Golden Rule of the Holy book: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If the PNC in Government will always choose to cherry pick which portions of the Constitution they will obey – invariably those that only further its interests – they should not be surprised when the populace and other political players develop a cynicism towards them and politics in general.
During the first 28 years of illegal rule by the PNC, they made a mockery of constitutional Government by completely rewriting the Constitution in 1980 to institutionalise its authoritarian rule. Unfortunately, even though there were the aforementioned constitutional changes of 2000, by then the political culture permeating all political institutions had become so distorted, that the Guyanese people must insist on constitutional change which the PNC is resisting.
The Opposition must lead a national discourse to reinforce the values undergirding the “basic structure” of the new Constitution which must be enshrined in the basic structure of our Constitution so they are beyond change and to institute sanctions on those who would transgress them.
The values that have shaped the struggle of all Guyanese above all others are democracy, liberty and equality. We must resist the opportunistic manoeuvrings of the PNC so that they become living reality. Only then we can hope for justice, which is the prime imperative for all social institutions.