Guyana’s current political situation is not escaping the glare of the international community. Recently, the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) made public calls for constitutional adherence and free and fair elections. Even before those calls, the Government dug its heels in and resorted to the courts, a move many saw as attempts to find solace and delay the constitutional directives.
As a reminder, the Government, through the Prime Minister and the President, did publicly accept the successful passage of the no-confidence motion and stated adherence to the Constitution. They flipped following the insertion of a preposterous mathematical theory and the rest is now history.
Also worthy to note is that both the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chief Justice were unambiguous in their respective rulings in reaffirming the validity of the no-confidence vote and the need for elections to be held within the 90-day period as stipulated in the Constitution. Both rulings can only be seen as a rebuke of the Government’s efforts to disregard the Constitution and to hold on to power.
In doing so, the Government has and continues to expend much effort and taxpayers’ money to try and convince some sections of the Guyanese population against what is stated in the Constitution. This is done under the guise of court actions and a boast to appeal the Chief Justice’s ruling. With less than half of the 90-day period left, there is still no sign of the Government indicating a willingness to comply.
As a matter of fact, the Attorney General proclaimed the Government will go all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) if necessary. That speaks to a protracted period with no finite time frame. Again, this is contradictory to what the Constitution states. In addition, the President at a recent public Party function boldly stated his government is legitimate and has done nothing outside of the law.
If that were to be believed, how then can the Attorney General explain seeking a stay from the Chief Justice to have the status quo remain in the context of the successful passage of the no-confidence vote as upheld on two fronts? His efforts failed and in effect, the constitutional requirements must be adhered to. Had he not been aware of a constitutional breach, would he have made the pitch for a stay? That itself could strongly suggest knowledge of constitutional transgression.
Of concern must, therefore, be the acceptance of not adhering to the Constitution in the quest to hold on to power. The glaring duplicitousness now is contradictory to what was boasted during the 2015 campaign. Then, in seeking votes, APNU/AFC promised many things, including upholding the Constitution and abiding by the rule of law.
From what currently plays out, it seems those promises were not genuine. In the said context, it appears that the greatest disappointment may not be in coming to grips with some politicians not being believable, but maybe in the public position taken by the President. First, having accepted the impact of the successful passage of the no-confidence motion, he now states that all legal options will be exhausted to possibly disprove it.
While everyone, including the Government, has a right to such options, in this case statesmanship is expected to take precedence in the interest of the welfare of the country, especially when two very credible persons, the Speaker and the Chief Justice, representative of constitutional institutions, pronounce on the matter. With a full understanding of the potential impact on the country and its people, a President is expected to act above the fray even if the decision may not be popular with his/her following.
A leader is made and remembered for hard decisions taken in the best interest of the nation. There is still time for the President. He can rise above his party’s grab to stay in power and call the election. He can demonstrate astute leadership and tell the nation that he will uphold the Constitution, as enshrined in the oath of office he took. He can announce that in the best interest of Guyana and Guyanese, he will not continue to pursue the path through the courts and will consult with the Leader of the Opposition on related matters.
At one point, he said that if the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is ready, he will call the elections. Despite GECOM’s delay, it recently indicated that the voters’ list is clean implying readiness. With that in mind, he can seek the Opposition’s support for whatever extension may be necessary beyond March 19 when the 90-day period expires. In doing so, he will remove any ambiguity over his concern for the welfare of the country in the context of his recent statement of fully exhausting the courts.
In other words, he must act presidential since he is not the President of APNU/AFC but for all of Guyana. That is what he stated when he was sworn in at Parliament Building in May 2015. The world is looking to see how holistically as a nation, we are constitutionally compliant. The President in one action can still salvage the nation’s image.