The rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on the December 21, 2018 No-Confidence Motion (NCM) and the appointment of Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) are without ambiguity. In simple and clear language, the Court declared that the NCM was properly passed; Mr Charrandas Persaud’s vote was valid with the right to vote against his party; 33 is a majority needed and Justice Patterson’s appointment was unconstitutional.
The decisions were a stinging rebuke of the Government’s arguments especially its laughable and absurd theory that 33 is not a majority of 65. From all accounts, there weren’t doubts in the minds of ordinary Guyanese as to the constitutional provision for a NCM and what its success would automatically trigger. One can also safely suggest that the Government was aware of those said provisions as evident from the initial statements of the Prime Minister and the President.
The rulings of the CCJ, which are final and which upheld the decision of the Chief Justice (ag) and one of the Appeal Court Judges, may have confirmed that the Government deliberately delayed the inevitable by taking the legal route. In doing so, not only did the Government clutch at straws with a trumped-up and ridiculous mathematical theory but expended precious taxpayers’ monies in the process.
During that time, legal minds, both local and across the Region except for those on the Government’s team, were dumbfounded at the reasons for seeking legal cover. Sadly, their defence found a place in the minds of two legal practitioners who are probably now ruing their stance while possibly drenched in embarrassment. The CCJ ruled on the basis of law and no other sentiments. In doing so, it upheld and protected the Constitution of Guyana from the whims and fancies of those who trampled upon it.
Guyanese must be feeling a tremendous sense of outrage at the fact that millions of dollars and time were sapped just for the obvious to be reiterated. Clearly from the rulings, elections should have been held within the constitutionally-stipulated three-month period following the NCM. That period expired on March 21, 2019. As it is, the Government is currently illegal and has been so since that expiry date given that no constitutional extension was granted.
Following the rulings, the President boldly proclaimed that elections would be held in November this year after the completion of house-to-house registration. That smacks of defiance. The timeline, five months from now, is in keeping with that of the GECOM Chairman and may be deemed as support for the delaying process. That announcement may be seen as another attempt to violate the constitutional process and a deliberate manoeuvre to pass to GECOM the responsibility of deciding election timelines.
It also suggests a continuance in delay to buy time which appears the Government’s thrust after been broadsided by the NCM. With an abysmally poor track record in all spheres of governance and having inflicted wanton economic hardships upon the Guyanese people, the Government desperately needed time to try and appease the electorate.
Immediately after the successful passage of the NCM, the Government unearthed frivolous reasons to resort to the courts, condemned the voters’ list as unacceptable, and embarked on expensive exercises across the country to engage under the guise of taking services to the people. Ministers who never left the comfort of their offices since May 2015 were suddenly in the villages.
Just six weeks prior to the NCM, the voters’ list was used for Local Government Elections (LGE). Then, the Government boasted of and defended the integrity of that list. In its strategic delay to avoid the holding of the elections within the constitutional 90-day period following the NCM, the list was made to expire at the end of April 2019.
That emboldened the Government’s call for house-to-house registration for a new list despite being aware of simple mechanisms that can facilitate any necessary addition within a short time span. That same good list is now conveniently being castigated as corrupt with the claim it contains some 200,000 incorrect entries. Why that wasn’t made known in the run-up to the 2018 LGE is still baffling. The inference is clear; buying time.
The CCJ has given up to June 24 for some solutions to be derived through expected engagements with operatives from the political divide. The understanding is if none is found, it will pronounce on consequential orders. That is expected to be in keeping with constitutional provisions which the said court has protected in its rulings. The President’s pronouncement may, therefore, be seen as a violation. Simultaneously, his government is pushing ahead with its position of “no registration, no elections” which is a worrying indication.
Having spent millions for Caribbean legal luminaries to state the obvious in our Constitution, the Government seems undeterred in its endeavours to hold on to power as it did for 28 years prior to 1992. Then, it took a former President of the USA to end that charade. Now the CCJ has been given that responsibility. Its rulings are on that said course.