On March 2, Guyanese thought they drew a proverbial line in the sand on the creeping subversion of the rule of law, which is a disturbing sign of a return to the dark days of the PNC’s dictatorial rule, especially between 1968 and 1985 under Forbes Burnham, that party’s “founder leader”.
During the last five years, there were too many examples abounding of governmental institutions — led by David Granger — stretching and acting outside their constitutional remit and taking unilateral political decisions that plunged the country further down the Burnhamite abyss.
As usual, it began with testing actions that violated the spirit of agreements that were solemnly crafted to guide actions in the political realm. For Granger to renege on the agreement with the AFC contained in the “Cummingsburg Accord” – to have his Prime Minister chair the Cabinet and be in charge of domestic governance – by claiming the Constitution precluded it was more than bad faith. It was a sign that, without compunction, Granger was willing to break the moral contract between parties that undergirds the rule of law writ large. The Constitution authorises the President to delegate any of his Executive powers to any of his Ministers, but unfortunately, the AFC was unwilling to challenge him on his claim. Their mouths were muzzled by the hand that feeds them.
Granger moved on to actually violate the Constitution when he disputed, in a long and contentious argument, the clear language that was inserted to approve the nomination and appointment of “any other fit and proper person” than a judge as the Chair of GECOM. He said it was simply the “perception” of the Chief Justice, to whom the matter was referred. He insisted that he was entitled to his “perception”, and took the matter all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Even when that apex court ruled against him, Granger insisted on another obtuse interpretation of the law to claim he was entitled to include his nominations on the list of six names the Opposition Leader was supposed to submit for him to choose from.
It is when these intrusions form a pattern of violations of the spirit of the rule of law that the vigilance of the citizenry becomes critical since dictatorships are usually constructed in broad daylight while the citizens are inattentive. Soon the rights of those citizens themselves are trampled upon as the “dictator in the making” enlarges the scope of his unilateral actions.
In fact, the Chief Justice had to rule that a unilateral action by Granger to annul the leases of several West Coast Berbice farmers was illegal. But clearly, from his subsequent actions, that judgement did not serve to disabuse the President of his misapprehension of the “separation of powers” doctrine and his encouragement of the traducing of the rule of law.
Not surprisingly, Granger’s cavalier attitude infected other officials of his Government, and almost every day one could read of further transgressions. The secreting of the “signing bonus” received in the Bank of Guyana (BoG) for over a year — done by two senior Ministers: Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman and Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan — and not in the Consolidated Fund as mandated by the Constitution (Art 216) was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of egregious transgressions. The overreach on the oil contract signed by Trotman is still an ongoing saga, which had to be approved by the imperious Granger.
Now that Guyanese have voted, events currently unfolding in Guyana have left citizens in shock and lost for words, as they cannot believe that what is happening before their very eyes is actually real.
The fight for the return of free and fair elections and to be ruled by a democratic government was not an easy battle; it was long and hard. We are now in 2020, and we had thought that, by this time, the nation had matured politically and leaders would act responsibly to save their country from descending into chaos and confusion and going backwards. Unfortunately, this is not the case; we have leaders who would hold on to power at all costs, even at the expense of seeing their country being destroyed.