No date set by President for meeting with Opposition Leader
CCJ post-judgement advise
…despite Jagdeo’s proposal to meet daily
Several days after Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo accepted an invitation from President David Granger to meet and discuss a consensus on the way forward following the recent rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), a date is yet to be set by the Head of State for the much-anticipated engagement.
On Friday the President acknowledged Jagdeo’s response to his invitation. Opposition Chief Whip and executive member, Gail Teixeira told Guyana Times that an acknowledgement letter from the President’s office was received on Friday afternoon with no indication as to a possible date for a meeting.
“I can tell you that it doesn’t have a date. [It’s just an acknowledgement of Jagdeo’s response] and raising an issue of interpretation but we’ll probably release the letter when we release the response at the same time…,” she stated.
According to Teixeira, the party will be considering the correspondence and hopefully respond to the Head of State over the weekend.
Following the June 18 rulings that the December passage of the Opposition’s No-Confidence Motion was valid and that the unilateral appointment of ret’d Justice James Patterson as the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was unconstitutional, CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders had urged the two sides to meet to find consensus before last Monday’s hearing for consequential orders. However, President David Granger sent an invitation to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Friday, June 21, 2019, for them to meet after Monday’s hearing.
But during that hearing, Justice Saunders expressed disappointment that the two leaders were yet to meet.
“These matters are of the highest constitutional significance… and it beats me that the Leader of the Opposition and the President, and their respective counsel, had not met to discuss the issues that confront us. Everybody says these are important issues but it seems as though the same degree of urgency and deliberation that are expected of the courts, we don’t see them being reflected in the behaviour of the political directorate and that I think is unfortunate,” the CCJ President expressed.
In fact, he went on to note that the case puts the court in an “awkward position” since it does not want to make political decisions but at the same time it has a remit to ensure that the rule of law is observed. This, Justice Saunders noted, however, can only happen if the political leaders display a spirit of compromise and reasonableness, which will allow the rule of law to take effect.
The CCJ President’s comments were made after Attorney General Basil Williams misled the court by saying that President Granger had acted “forthwith” and invited the Opposition Leader to a meeting.
However, at a press conference after Monday’s hearing, Jagdeo called out the AG for deliberately misleading the CCJ. According to Jagdeo, a letter was indeed dispatched to his office but states that he was being invited for a meeting after the June 24 consequential ruling with no date or time indicated.
Nevertheless, a response letter was sent to the Head of State last Tuesday indicating that Jagdeo is prepared to meet with the President “at any time, and, on a daily basis if needs be”. Despite this, however, no date has been set to discuss the appointment of a new GECOM Chairman following the resignation of Justice Patterson earlier this week.
The Opposition Leader told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that he needs to meet with the President first to ascertain the “ground rules” on the way forward, that is, whether they will consider nominees from the 18 names that were previously rejected or come up with a new list altogether. Jagdeo said that he is willing to sit with the President and compile such a list for the purpose of having consensus even though the Constitution requires him to submit a list.
Meanwhile, there have been calls from stakeholders for the two leaders to adhere to the CCJ’s advice and meet before the July 12 hearing so as to avoid having the Trinidad-based regional court impose consequential orders.
Onus on President
Also weighing in on the issue on Friday was former Minister Leslie Ramsammy, who criticised President Granger for not initiating the meeting to date, saying the onus is on him to do so.
“The CCJ, after one week, met with the stakeholders and gave another almost three weeks for dialogue and hopefully avoid consequential orders from the CCJ. No such dialogue has occurred, even five days after the CCJ extended the dialogue period, and now more than two weeks since the rulings. It is an open, brazen contempt for the CCJ,” Ramsammy contended.
The former Minister noted that silence by the Government on a date for the meeting loudly signifies their defiance of the CCJ. He went on to dismiss arguments that the President and the coalition Government have initiated consequential actions by having Patterson stepping down, pointing out that the former GECOM Chair was, in fact, fired by the CCJ and Guyana’s Constitution.
“Patterson was not comfortable in personally dissing the CCJ. That Patterson walked has nothing to do with Granger and APNU/AFC complying with the CCJ’s rulings,” he stressed.
Nevertheless, Ramsammy sounded a call for those who stand for “true democracy” to speak up and ensure the President meets with the Opposition Leader.
“As of this time and per the problem we face, the Leader of the Opposition and the PPP have shown patience and their readiness to engage Granger and APNU/AFC. The time is now for all stakeholders to demand Granger meet with the Leader of the Opposition to select a GECOM Chair, even if an interim Chair, and to decide on an election date sooner than later, keeping in mind the constitutional requirement of three months, which expired since March 21st. The three months timeline has to be a non-negotiable timeline since the Government has already run down the clock and illegally held on to power for more than three months already. We must call a spade a spade. Granger and APNU/AFC dissed the Parliament and the Constitution, dissed the Chief Justice and the High Court and now is dissing the CCJ,” Ramsammy posited.