Guyana already facing constitutional crisis – political analyst

As the deadline for the constitutionally due March 19 election approaches, Guyanese continue to wait with bated breath to see what would be the next move made by Government and the Opposition, and whether in fact Guyana could head into a constitutional crisis.
But political scientist Dr David Hinds firmly believes that there is already a constitutional crisis, wherein the two major political titans, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), are interpreting the Constitution differently.
“Since constitutions by their very nature are not as explicit as other documents, this disagreement is to be expected. That is where judicial review comes in; the judicial branch of Government is expected to break the deadlock,” he told Guyana Times on Sunday.
The initial case directly pertains to the passage of the no-confidence vote in the National Assembly by a majority of 33 to 32 on December 21, 2018. In the second case, activist Christopher Ram had argued that Cabinet should have resigned, as per the Constitution.
Acting Chief Justice Roxane George had upheld both cases, ruling that the no-confidence vote was validly passed, and that Cabinet should have resigned. However, Attorney General Basil Williams has appealed the cases, claiming that the Chief Justice erred in her rulings.
The Court of Appeal is, on March 12, set to commence hearing of appeals filed against the High Court judgments on the no- confidence motion. This is mere days before the March 19 deadline in which elections should have been held following the no-confidence vote.
“But, invariably, the courts come down on one side of the argument. Because the executive is a co-equal branch of Government, it has some scope to get around the verdict of the courts. In other words, despite the rhetoric about constitutional rule and the rule of law, ultimately those cannot make much sense outside of the larger political and historical contexts,” Hinds said.
The political scientist said an honest overview of Guyana’s modern political history would show that the country has been in a permanent state of “constitutional crisis” since 1953, simply because there has been a discord between our constitutional assertions and our political praxis.
Dr Hinds claimed that the problem was solved by one Guyanese leader installing “paramountcy of the party over the courts and the Constitution, which ultimately led to a full-blown authoritarian order that survives to this day.”
Since the return of free and fair elections, he said, Guyana has witnessed at least three other manifestations of constitutional crises.
“The common thread running through all these crises is that they are all grounded in the ethno-political realities of our country, and they all were temporarily resolved by political agreements by the two parties under the overt or covert supervision of external forces,” he added.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has raised concerns with the diplomats that Guyana may be heading towards a constitutional crisis with the Government’s sloth in calling elections.
“We’ve been having engagements with different groups from the international community, to apprise them of the situation in Guyana and our take, and how we feel about the sloth of the Government to seriously consider the constitutional implications of their behaviour,” he said.
“They’re behaving as if nothing happened and we’re in a normal situation when we’re heading to a constitutional crisis. So I pointed out clearly about that rapid pathway to a constitutional crisis, and what will take place once the country gets into that situation, how we will act. And you are aware in the public domain what the approach will be on our side.”
Jagdeo outlined that the Guyana Elections Commission’s attempts to delay early elections are only aggravating the situation. He explained that he also outlined to the diplomatic community how the People’s Progressive Party would act should Guyana reach this position.
“It is disastrous; because I think GECOM, at the level of the Secretariat, from the documents they provided to the Commissioners, seems ready to start the process rolling; but at the level of the Commission, the Commissioners representing the Government have now taken on a political role. So their rhetoric is similar to the Government’s,” Jagdeo said.
Jagdeo has said there will be a constitutional crisis if the coalition Government does not hold elections in March. According to the Opposition Leader, the power lies only in the legislature to expand the life of Government with a 2/3 vote of Members of Parliament in agreement.