Jagdeo outlines criteria for next PPP presidential candidate

Sovereignty of the people case

By Jarryl Bryan

The decision in the case of the Attorney General versus Cedric Richardson was announced on Tuesday amid much public interest.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who was the subject of much debate regarding the ruling, remains unmoved by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) upholding, among other things, term limits for Guyana’s Presidents by six to one.

PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo

During a press conference on Tuesday, Jagdeo maintained that despite the ruling, he would remain the General Secretary (GS) of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). He noted that the ruling has nothing to do with his position as GS.
Jagdeo pointed out also that when he left office as President in 2011, it was in keeping with the law on presidential term limits. The former President stressed that he would continue to abide by the law and that at the appropriate time, the PPP would select a presidential candidate.
“The CCJ ruling has been interpreted in a particular way, but it is still our law,” Jagdeo stressed. “As someone who has always complied with our law, the same situation remains today.”
In fact, Jagdeo made it clear that he was not keen on certain aspects of being President. While he has no problem with the idea of listening and addressing the concerns of the ordinary people as President, he admitted he disliked the superficial form and ceremonial trappings that came with the position.
Jagdeo, who served as President from 1999 to 2011, noted that he would continue to play an integral part in the Party. According to the General Secretary, he will continue to broaden the demographics of persons coming to his party and maintained that if the PPP/C returned to Government he would play a formal role.
Jagdeo refused to speculate on what specific role he would play in the next PPP/C Government. He would only say that he would contribute through helping to guide and formulate policy, according to his experience. While Jagdeo noted that the Party has never placed all its eggs in one basket when it came to the electoral ticket, he declined to cite potential presidential candidates. However, he did highlight that the Party’s next presidential candidate will have to be a “hard-working” person, who is courageous and has good management skills.
“I see many people I like for that position. These people are hard-working, have great management skills and are courageous. That’s what I think a President should be,” Jagdeo related.
When he was asked directly whether he would support former President Donald Ramotar as the Party’s presidential candidate, Jagdeo would only reiterate his ideals of presidential criteria.

The case
The constitutional challenge case brought by Georgetown resident Cedric Richardson in February 2015 had sought the Court’s interpretation of the National Assembly’s changes to Article 90, as those related to four restraints on the freedom of choice by citizens at national elections.
Richardson argued, through his lawyers, Emily Dodson and Shawn Allicock, that the amendment – Article 17 of 2000 – unconstitutionally curtails and restricts his sovereign and democratic right and freedom as a qualified elector to elect a specific person of his choice as the Executive President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Richardson had also contended that the limit was unconstitutional and illegal. He sought the Court’s interpretation to determine whether a referendum on the amendment should not have been held, instead of the two-thirds majority in the National Assembly having the power to decide the limit on the number of terms.
Former acting Chief Justice Ian Chang had ruled in July 2015 that the alteration of Article 90 by Act No 17 of 2000, in substance and effect, undoubtedly diminished the democratic rights of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President.
He had noted that such an amendment needs a referendum and is invalid and without legal effect for reason of non-compliance. He further ruled that Act 17 of 2000 seeks to dilute the pre-existing democratic rights of the electorate to elect a President of their choice. As such, while the Constitution provides for representative democracy, such representative democracy cannot encroach on popular sovereignty from which it derives and which is entrenched by the requirement of the referendum.
However, the High Court’s decision was appealed by the Attorney General’s Chambers and former Speaker of the House Raphael Trotman, both of whom were named as respondents in the court action. They asked that the ruling be “wholly set aside”.