…decision now likely hours before Chancellor demits office
The ruling into the third term Presidential appeal case has been deferred to next Wednesday. The ruling was originally set to be handed down yesterday at the Court of Appeal. However, the matter was postponed to February 22; next, as attorneys involved in the case submitted further written arguments on the issue.
The appeal is based on a petition involving Cedric Richardson, a resident of Georgetown. Richardson won a court case, after he challenged the legal limitation of a Guyanese President in 2014.
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, Attorneys representing the State submitted the written arguments in which they identified the questions to be answered.
According to the legal documents, 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.
Yesterday, further submissions filed on behalf of the Government, seeking the court’s determination on the following questions whether Act 17 of 2001 which purports to alter Article 90 of the 1980 Constitution by way of a two-thirds majority vote of all the members of the National Assembly is unconstitutional and of no legal effect for reason of non-compliance with article 164(2)(b) of the Constitution.
Among the issues to be addressed are whether the application is void ab initio;(from the beginning); whether the altering of the qualifications of a Presidential Candidate in article 90 of the Constitution, by Act No. 17 of 2000 was unconstitutional and ultra vires article 164(2)(b) of the Constitution; or a breach of the provisions of articles 1 and 9of the Constitution and ultra vires Article 164(2)(a)of the Constitution.
According to the court document the lawyers are further asking whether Act 17 of 2001 which purports to alter Article 90 of the 1980 Constitution by way of a two third (2/3) majority vote of all the members of the National Assembly has the consequence (advertent or inadvertent) of restricting and curtailing the democratic rights and freedom of the electorate by purporting to eliminate from the executive Presidential candidature a person who has been re-elected as executive President, e.g. former President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The attorney is also asking whether Act 17 of 2001 which purports to alter Article 90 of the 1980 Constitution by way of a two third (2/3) majority vote of all the members of the National Assembly, in so far as it has had the effect of restricting and curtailing the democratic rights and freedom of the electorate providing for the non-eligibility of a person who has been re-elected as executive President for presidential elections candidature, required for its legal validity the holding of a referendum of the people.
The lawyers therefore questioned whether Act 17 of 2001 which purports to alter Article 90 of the 1980 Constitution by way of a two third (2/3) majority vote of all the members of the National Assembly in so far as it has the effect of restricting and curtailing the democratic rights and freedom of the electorate enjoyed under the 1980 Constitution prior to its purported alteration by Act 17 of 2001 diminishes and reduces the level of democracy enjoyed by the electorate prior to the purported alteration and therefore required the holding of a referendum for such alteration.
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