In its history thus far, Guyana has not been short of instances when it was either the center of jokes and/or brought embarrassment upon itself here and overseas. Many years ago, when basic food items were banned and with possible jailtime for possession, Guyanese traders defied the odds to bring such items and others to satisfy those who could have afforded while eked a living in the process.
It wasn’t easy or a pretty sight in the eyes of residents at some regional airports. Hardworking Guyanese were mocked and others at home scorned and laughed at simply because of being unable to freely access basic food items and for its dictatorial regime.
That disrespect wasn’t confined to the traders, but meted out to other Guyanese who traveled for other purposes. Guyana unfortunately became the joke of the Caribbean. There were other instances over time; the Jonestown and the 1997 post-election fiascos are just two.
As the country progressed and became the leading and shining light in the Caribbean, one would have expected that such unflattering incidents would stay buried in history. Sadly, history has a way of repeating itself.
The no-confidence motion (NCM) of December 21, 2018, reopened the door; more specifically, the subsequent actions of the current government. Having failed to abide with the constitutional requirements, it sought recourse in the court.
In the first instance, many saw it as a joke that the court was asked to rule or interpret something that seemed unambiguous. Others felt that is was necessary is keeping legal recourse. In the end, the CCJ ruled and many still feel it was unnecessary as taxpayers’ money and time were expended to be told the obvious as stated in the constitution.
The CCJ’s hearings and ruling were broadcast live and available to all across the region. The presentations of the legal luminaries in such a high-profile case made viewing compelling. Much was said about some of the presentations, especially from the government side. Some of what was offered in defence, within the context of the matter before the CCJ, was deemed as uninspiring. In the process, humour could not have been suppressed.
The presentations in question may not have been an automatic booking by those seeking reprieve from daily stresses since the expectation would have been for legal representation par excellence. Ironically, therein probably lies the reason the exercise was seen as a joke; the government seemingly positioned the country to be given a public lesson on interpretation for something that appeared simple. In doing so, fodder for satire abounds.
But that’s not the end of what seems an ongoing encore. Two days ago, media reports stated that the government, in its submission for consideration for the consequential orders, asked that the CCJ leave elections up to the Parliament, GECOM, the President and the Leader of the Opposition. Even a cursory glance at that request may be enough to evoke humour.
The most obvious question; how could that be the request now, seven months after the NCM given what is enshrined in the constitution? The constitution clearly states that a successful NCM leads to elections within ninety days; the President and the Cabinet shall resign. There is provision for the government to stay on to facilitate the elections. It means that GECOM has to be at the ready to facilitate elections within that constitutionally mandated timeframe.
The government refused to abide by the constitution and GECOM claims elections cannot be held before late November; almost a year after the passage of the NCM which the Speaker of the National Assembly upheld.
The President is steadfast that GECOM has to inform him when the elections are possible and only then can he announce a date. At the most recent CCJ hearing, the GECOM’s lawyer stated that a new list can only be ready by December 25, 2019; now more than a year after the NCM.
The Opposition Leader has been consistent that the elections be held within the ninety days mandated and allude to constitutional provisions for updating the voters’ list. Both the government and GECOM’s pronouncements have created a protracted timeframe way beyond what the constitution dictates. One can draw inferences.
Given what has played out so far, asking that the CCJ leave elections up to the Parliament, GECOM and the President primarily, would potentially lead to further delays. In reality, the CCJ is being asked to order something that should have been completed as of March 21, 2019; when the constitutionally ninety days expired.
The request seems a reservoir for more humour, however, and ironically, the government may have failed to see the joke, deliberately perhaps.
Two days ago, it submitted the names of eight persons for the GECOM’s Chairman; names that include one whose appointment was ruled unconstitutional by the CCJ and some with reportedly known political ties to the government and its main Party; the PNC.
There seems no respite as humour abounds. That aside, there is the other matter of unnecessary embarrassment inflicted on the country and its people; and that’s no joke!