Latest update March 23rd, 2023 12:59 AM
Aug 10, 2015 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
Not so fast.
That is what the government seems to be telling those who are satisfied that former President Bharrat Jagdeo should be allowed to run as a presidential candidate in the next General and Regional Elections.
The new government is dissatisfied with Chief Justice (Ag) Ian Chang’s ruling that an elected President can run for more than two terms. As a result, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams has raised his hands in objection.
Last Friday, he filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court upon five grounds.
In his filed appeal on behalf of the government, Williams stated that he is “dissatisfied with the whole of the decision” handed down by Chang.
The Chief Justice’s (CJ) decision came after a constitutional challenge was taken by Georgetown resident Cedric Richardson. He sought the court’s interpretation of the provisions in the Constitution regarding the two-term limit for Guyana’s presidency.
Richardson’s Constitutional challenge was filed in February last by Attorneys-at-Law Emily Dodson and Shawn Allicock, on behalf of Richardson.
The applicant argued that Act 17 of 2001 which was passed by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly unconstitutionally curtails and restricts his sovereign and democratic rights and freedom as a qualified elector to elect former President Jagdeo as the Executive President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Richardson had contended that the limit was unconstitutional and illegal. He also wanted the court to determine whether the amendment with referendum should not have been held, instead of the two-thirds majority in the National Assembly having the powers to decide to limit the number of terms.
The Chief Justice, in a written ruling, among other things, said that the purported alteration of Article 90 by the Act No. 17 of 2001, in substance and effect, undoubtedly diminishes the democratic rights of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President.
According to the ruling, the court therefore views that Act 17 of 2001 needed a referendum and is invalid and without legal effect for reason of non-compliance.
The CJ further noted that “Act 17 of 2001, which purports to alter Article 90 of the 1980 Constitution, seeks to dilute the pre-existing democratic rights of the electorate to elect a President of their choice. Thus, while the constitution provides for representative democracy, such representative democracy cannot entrench on popular sovereignty from which it derives and which is entrenched by the requirement of the referendum.”
In his Appeal, filed on Friday, Williams posited that Chang “erred and misdirected himself in the law” in ruling that the National Assembly which passed Act No. 17 of 2001 is unconstitutional and of no effect as it failed to comply with Article 164 (2)(a) of the Constitution.
The Attorney General believes that Chang also erred in ruling that the Act in question, in substance and effect, diminishes the democratic right of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President.
Williams also posited that Chang erred in law in not satisfying himself that the Court has jurisdiction to grant the reliefs sought.
With these grounds and two others, Williams asked that Chang’s ruling be “wholly set aside.”
When the CJ initially handed down his decision, some legal analysts opined that he erred in his interpretation of the law and noted that the decision should be appealed.
Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran had said that the ruling gives enough evidence to prove just how inappropriate it is to have one Judge presiding over the Constitutional Court.
While Jagdeo has said that he has no intention holding any jobs in Guyana including that of Head of State, he was recently named Opposition Leader and head of the Peoples’ Progressive Party /Civic, (PPP/C).
When the ruling was handed down, some shivered at the thought that Jagdeo can run again and expressed this in letters to the Editors of the various daily newspapers; while others welcomed the possibility.
In 2000, the Guyana Constitution Reform Commission recommended a maximum of two terms in office for a President. The laws of Guyana were changed in 2001, and assented by former President Bharrat Jagdeo himself, making it clear that, “A person elected as President after the year 2000 is eligible for re-election only once.”
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