If there was any doubt the Government of Guyana fell on December 21, 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) ruling on June 18, layered with consequential orders issued on July 12, 2019, now affirms the Guyana Government was defeated in a No-Confidence Motion on that day. The facts are unambiguous, pellucidly clear and unequivocally affirmed by the CCJ. The Constitution of Guyana requires that the President and the Cabinet resign with immediate effect, the President and his Government transition into a caretaker role, the elections held within 90 days, by September 18, in a new timeline which began on June 18, the day of the CCJ ruling. In addition, the CCJ ruled that a new GECOM Chair be appointed urgently in accordance with the Constitution.
These realities are not the imposition of a rogue court. These realities are in accordance with the laws of Guyana, its Constitution, with the CCJ merely pointing out the cold, hard facts.
As a Caribbean citizen with a deep commitment to the success and effectiveness of Caricom, given the CCJ’s unequivocal judgment, Caricom’s position is of critical importance. Caricom has been totally silent so far, nearly nine months after the NCM in Guyana’s Parliament, insisting its commitment is towards democracy in every Caricom country and, in fact, everywhere in the Commonwealth and in the world. I stood proud as a Caribbean citizen every time, and there are many such instances, when Caricom firmly and bravely stood on the side of democracy, whenever and wherever democracy was threatened. In view of the CCJ ruling on the NCM in Guyana, where does Caricom stand?
Mr Secretary General, democracy is threatened in Guyana as the Guyana Government refuses to adhere to the Constitution and the will of Parliament. When a Government deliberately sabotages its own Constitution and disrespects the legal system, as the APNU/AFC Government is presently doing in Guyana, democracy is threatened. Will Caricom maintain silence as Guyana plunges into a dictatorship?
Caricom itself, in the midst of the clumsy Government’s challenge of the NCM and its validity, insisted the legal avenues must be honoured and, therefore, it will not voice any position on the political dispute in Guyana, one of its founding members. It took this position even though the parliamentary outcome was clear on December 21, 2018. Whatever doubt the Government attempted to stir has now been dismissed by the CCJ. The CCJ left nothing for interpretation – the Guyana Government is a caretaker Government and it must follow the Constitution, holding elections within three months. What is Caricom waiting on now?
Caricom’s silence on what is happening in Guyana brings disrepute to this body and will forever impact on its future position on various matters. First, Caricom’s future positions on any threat to democracy anywhere will seem hollow and hypocritical. How could an organisation which turned a blind eye to the sabotaging of the Constitution by one of its own members challenge undemocratic behaviour in other countries or even in another of its member states? Caricom’s silence as the Constitution of Guyana is being railroaded potentially disqualifies Caricom from ever again being a legitimate voice against undemocratic actions anywhere.
Second, the CCJ’s own future is in jeopardy and Caricom’s silence is contributing to a perilous future for the CCJ. The CCJ is one of the most important institutions in Caricom. The strength and integrity of Caricom are dependent on a strong and respected CCJ. If the CCJ’s rulings and orders are allowed to be ignored by a Government, as is happening in Guyana right now, then the CCJ is rendered a toothless poodle. We must not allow this to happen. At the very least, Caricom must take a stance that the CCJ ruling is sacrosanct, with no room to disrespect the institution. In accordance with Guyana’s Constitution which the CCJ affirms, the Guyana Government is a caretaker Government and will become an illegal Government after September 18. Caricom must end its silence and forcefully call on the Government of Guyana to enforce the CCJ rulings, following faithfully the provisions of the Constitution of Guyana.
The CCJ has spoken and Caricom has no reason to equivocate. If Caricom does not support its own institution and stand by it, why should anyone want to continue with the CCJ? The deliberate and contemptuous disregard being demonstrated by the Guyana Government in regards to the CCJ’s ruling is a fatal threat to the CCJ. Why should any of the countries that presently subscribe to the CCJ continue to honour this onerous burden for an institution that is merely a paper tiger, a toothless poodle? Why would any country that presently includes the CCJ as its final court continue to honour this obligation if the Court is a paper tiger only? Why should any country which presently is thinking of using the CCJ as its final court do so if the CCJ is nothing but a talk shop?
This is Caricom’s dilemma. While you equivocate, refusing to comment and refusing to urge the Guyana Government to adhere to its Constitution, while you continue to behave as if it is business as usual in Guyana, the credibility of Caricom, the legitimacy of your institutions, are being eroded by your silence, your very thunderous silence. Your silence has caused, if not more than 50 per cent, at least 50 per cent of the Guyanese people to lose faith in Caricom.
The time has come for Caricom to stand by the principles of the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the 2001 Nassau Declaration, and speak out against the erosion of democracy in Guyana, against the deliberate perversions of the Constitution of Guyana. This is not an option for Caricom, it is a duty-bound to stand up on behalf of democracy in Guyana.
Dr Leslie Ramsammy