Shortly after the Appeal Court announced its decision on its take on the validity of the December 21, 2018, no-confidence vote in the National Assembly, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, who was at the time performing the duties of President, noted in an interview that the decision must be respected.
That particular comment may have been directed at the Opposition and all others who disagreed with the ruling. While court rulings are expected to be respected, it does not necessarily means that they would be agreed with.
On the heels of the ruling, the Government wasted no time to share its pleasure at the split decision of the three Judges. In what appeared as a triumphalist report from its senior information officer, it boldly proclaimed that the decision handed down meant the coalition Government is fully legal, lawful and constitutionally remains in office without any hindrance or questions.
That was the intended purpose of the Minister’s comment made shortly afterwards given that many, including the Opposition, had deemed the Government illegal following the no-confidence vote. The ruling has not changed the sentiments for that section of the population as the matter has been appealed and a hearing expected soon by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Yesterday, reports in sections of the media quoted the Attorney General as saying, “no restraint on Govt” and that the court ruling “cancels out the No-confidence Motion”. In other words, for the Government, it is back to normal; it remains in office as the No-confidence Motion came and went.
That said, the Government’s call for the ruling of the Appeal Court to be respected can be seen as a plea not by coincidence as it endeavours to engender acceptance of its legitimacy within the dissenting faction. It therefore becomes not only interesting that such a plea is being made, but disingenuous since it refused to do what it is now asking of others.
Since December last year, the Government refused to accept it has been defeated by the no-confidence vote. It appealed to the Speaker of the National Assembly and failed with similar result following its appeal to the Chief Justice.
In the matters before the Chief Justice, the Government also failed to have its wish for a stay on the 90-day constitutionally mandated period for the holding of elections, granted. The legal ramifications is that it had to abide by the governing articles of the Constitution stipulating that the Cabinet resigns in such circumstances and the Government’s hold reduced similar to that of a caretaker.
Even if one were to be extremely magnamimous and give benefit of the doubt to the Government for not abiding with the ruling of the Speaker since it had sought recourse in the court, it blatantly refused to respect the decision of the Chief Justice. There could have been no excuse for it doing otherwise and with no benefit of doubt to be offered even in the period when the appeal to the Higher Court was waiting to be heard.
Simply put, the Government behaved as if the Chief Justice never ruled! Now, with what seems a convenient sense of amnesia, it rushed to pronounce that the split ruling of the Appeal Court be respected. Again, its duplicitous actions with regard to respecting the decisions of the court could not have been by coincidence.
By the tenets of the Constitution, the Government fell as a result of the no-confidence vote and upheld by both the Speaker and the Chief Justice. Had the Government abided by those two decisions, the Cabinet would have had to resign and elections already held barring an extension by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. One possibility from such an election, is the Government being removed from office.
From that, it could be said that the Government had no vested interest to respect the decisions in question which would have meant it taking a serious political risk. The Appeal Court’s decision therefore gave it a much needed reprieve as it continues to enjoy its stay in office as all await legal finality when the CCJ pronounces.
Legal minds see the Government’s refusal to respect the Chief Justice’s decision as contempt for the court; others as flagrant act of a dictatorship since the Government believably placed its own wellbeing above that of the country and its people. In the process, the rule of law was trampled upon and democracy dealt a severe blow.
Ironically, or again disingenuously, it was the Government, which when in the Opposition, accused the People’s Progressive Party’s Administration of being undemocratic with a penchant to disregard the rule of law.
In that context, the Government then presented itself as a champion of democracy with a passionate promise to uphold the rule of law and to ensure that democracy prevails. That was less than a mere four years ago. It strongly suggests that if the Government cannot remember or respect its own words in the recent past, how is it to respect the Speaker and Chief Justice’s ruling? The argument of convenience saunters on.