Jan 22, 2017 News
– Lawyers file written submissions, claim rights of citizen not restricted by two term limit.
Among the questions being asked by Attorneys representing the State in the Appeal case in the third
term Presidential case is the meaning of the clause “sovereignty belongs to the people” found in Article 9 of the Constitution of Guyana.
That clause among others is the basis by which Cedric Richardson, a resident of Georgetown won a court case, after he challenged the legal limitation of a Guyanese President in 2014.
Former Chief Justice Ian Chang had ruled that an elected President can run for more than two terms.
The ruling, based on Richardson’s Constitutional challenge, was filed in February, 2014. 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 Bharrat 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 a 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. After several months in the court, the former CJ ruled in favour of Richardson’s argument, setting the stage for Jagdeo to have a third term as President. However, the decision did not sit well with Attorney General Basil Williams and the APNU/AFC administration.
Ahead of the ruling next month, Attorneys representing the State have submitted the written arguments in which they identified the questions to be answered.
According to the legal document among the queries before the court, the lawyers representing the State are seeking clarification for the meaning of the clause “Democratic Sovereign State” in Article 1 of the Constitution of Guyana.
The document prepared by Attorney-at-Law Roysdale Forde, and filed at the Court of Appeal on Friday, outlined the respondent, (Richardson) contended that Act No. 17 of 2001 though it purported to amend Article 90 of the Constitution of Guyana by adding two Clauses to the said Article 90, had the effect and consequence of curtailing and diminishing the electorate’s choice of Presidential Candidate, by rendering ineligible the candidature of any person who had been re-elected once as President.
Richardson, through his attorneys, had submitted that the right to choose a Presidential Candidate for President of the Respondent’s or a citizen’s own choosing is a specie of the right of expression.
“It is also submitted that the exercise of a choice of a Presidential Candidate by the Respondent or a citizen occurs or culminates at the Ballot Box. It was therefore submitted that the right to choose a Presidential Candidate does not extend to the eligibility of or the disqualification of possible candidates for President,” the document underlined.
However, the applicant has noted that Act No. 17 of 2011 amended Article 90 of the Constitution of Guyana by the insertion of the provisions that a person elected as President after the year 2000 is eligible for re-election only once;
“A person who acceded to the Presidency after the year 2000 and served therein on a single occasion for not less than such period as may be determined by the National Assembly is eligible for election as President only once.”
The State is therefore relying on authorities such as People’s Union of Civil Liberties v. Union of India anor No. 490, 509 and 515 of 2012. In that case, the Judge noted that there is a clear distinction between the conferment of the right to vote and the right in the final act of expressing choice towards a Particular Candidate by means of ballot.
“Though the initial right cannot be placed on the pedestal of a fundamental right, but, at the stage when the voter goes to the polling booth and casts his vote, his freedom to express arises. The casting of vote in favour of one or the other candidate is tantamount to expression of his opinion and preference and that final stage in the exercise of voting right marks the accomplishment of freedom of expression of the voter.
It is submitted therefore that the right to choose a person as President by the Respondent or the citizen is completely unaffected by the amendment of Article 90 of the Constitution by Act No. 17 of 2001.”
The document underscored therefore that “article 90 of the Constitution as amended does not limit or restrict in any manner the freedom of expressing a choice and the casting of a vote at the ballot box in favour of any particular Presidential Candidate.”
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