We have heard it from virtually the mouthpiece of the horse’s mouth: former President Bharrat Jagdeo is not interested in a third term or indeed in holding any constitutional office.
This effectively rules him off the PPPC’s list of candidates for the 2015 elections because in making that list one is making oneself available for appointment to a constitutional office be it a minister or a parliamentarian.
The confirmation that the former President is not interested in holding a constitutional office— and this includes the Presidency— may lead some to conclude that there is no longer a need for that motion which has been filed in the High Court, challenging constitutional term limits for the presidency, to go ahead.
This view, of course, is premised on a belief that the motion itself was intended to determine whether Bharrat Jagdeo can run again for a third term. There is no evidence that the motion filed has anything at all to do with paving the way for the return of Jagdeo to the presidency.
The motion is about the constitutionality of term limits per se. The motion is not about Bharrat Jagdeo. It is asking the Court to determine whether terms limits as are constitutional.
As much as the answer has implications for whether Jagdeo can run again, the motion goes beyond Jagdeo. It has implications for all future President, including Ramotar. The determination by the Court could well determine if Ramotar wins in May if it will be possible for him to run for a third term.
I will not comment on the merits of the motion. This matter is sub judice and while offering my take does not bring the court in disrepute or prejudice the outcome of this civil action, I believe that it is best for me not to advance what I feel will be the outcome of the motion.
But this much I will state. The motion – and this assessment is based entirely on what I have read in the press— is premised on the belief that there are term limits. What the Court is being asked- and this is my understanding based on the reports in the media- is to determine whether the correct procedure was followed in entrenching presidential term limits in our constitution.
One legal mind has said that the motion is intended to ask for an interpretation of the constitutional provision dealing with presidential terms limits. This is not my understanding of the motion.
My understanding is that the motion before the court starts from the premise that there are terms limits but it is being argued that these limits are unconstitutional because the incorrect procedures were used for entrenchment and because the term limits are in violation of the democratic will.
I presumed that a different approach would have been taken. I thought that the real question for the Court to answer is whether under the present constitution there is a two- term limit for any president. There is a view out there- and one that has been written about by Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran- to wit that there is no impediment to a president serving a third term, provided that the three terms are not consecutive. I would have thought that what the Court would have been asked is if this interpretation is correct. I will not say more on the legal aspects of the case.
The case as I mentioned has an interest that goes beyond Jagdeo. Term limits are being contested in many parts of Latin America. Indeed in some countries they have been overturned. The present case before our Courts must therefore be considered in light of the many successful challenges to term limits that have taken place.
The case also has political ramifications. One has to ask, for example, whether term limits are healthy for small countries like Guyana where social change takes time, considerable time, and therefore having term limits can frustrate the agenda of politicians and political parties since the sort of changes and reforms needed to transform entrenched class and social relations cannot be achieved within two terms.
Let us take APNU for example. It has voiced concerns about the distribution of wealth in Guyana. Obviously it has concerns about property relations, the relations of production in Guyana and the process of wealth creation and distribution in the country.
Does APNU really believe that it could, under one leader serving for two terms, transform the existing lop-sided relations of production and property relations in the country? Does it believe that it can redistribute the wealth of this country more equitably in a mere ten years? If Burnham could not do it in twenty-eight years, how will anyone else do it in ten?
It is doubtful that any party can transform the relations of production and wealth distribution in a mere two terms. Therefore, the opposition parties, hoping for a miracle at the May 11 polls may want to reconsider their opposition to the removal of presidential term limits.
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