Democrats in the US Congress have been calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, especially after he fired Director James Comey of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Trump reportedly has shared terror and other intelligence with Russia. But it is highly unlikely Mr. Trump will be impeached because of the Republican majority in both Houses of Congress.
Yet given the nature of his presidential campaign and his unprecedented liabilities, calls by democrats to impeach and remove him from office are understandable.
The English dictionary defines impeachment as to formally accuse a public official, especially politicians of a serious crime in connection with their job. It is a means to challenge the honesty and credibility of public officials.
Impeachment has its origins in English law and was first used by the British during the second half of the 14th century but fell out of use in the 18th century. It exists under constitutional law in many countries, including Australia, Brazil, the Republic of Ireland, India, Philippines, Russia, South Korea and the United States, among others.
In the US, impeachment is an enumerated power of the legislative branch of government that allows formal charges to be brought against a President and other public officials for crimes alleged to have been committed while they were in office.
Impeachment proceedings have been initiated against several presidents of the United States, but only Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached in 1868 and in 1998 respectively by the House of Representative.
However, they were not convicted by the Senate and therefore were not removed from office. Only a conviction by the Senate could remove a president from office. To date, no U.S. President has been convicted by the senate and removed from office.
Many believe that impeachment as a legal proceeding is needed in Guyana to curb the reckless and corrupt behaviour of some politicians. The people cannot rely only on democratic accountability which has been reduced to elections normally held once every five years.
Elections cannot provide timely, direct or substantive punishment to individual acts of public wrongdoing by politicians. They gamble on the assumption that people will cast ballots to signal their displeasure with acts of malfeasance, which are unlikely, given Guyana’s strong culture of party-based and racial voting, regardless of individual candidates.
Elections also incorrectly assume that voters will punish their parties to indicate their disapproval with a member’s wrongdoing or corrupt practices by a governing party that occurred during a five-year cycle.
It is a fact that our courts operate on two different systems of justice by punishing rogue individuals who are poor and not public officials and the political elite who are wealthy and who rarely face the consequences for their illegal actions.
The government should introduce legislation to make impeachment a legal proceeding against public officials, especially politicians for corruption, abuse of power, betrayal of public trust and other forms of malfeasance.
The possibility of impeachment would help to regulate the conduct of politicians and would deter them from wrongdoing, corruption and abuse of power as occurred during the last administration. The prospect of being impeached would severely constrain the power and behaviour of the political elite.
Impeachment procedures exist in several other countries to solve this very problem. It is time for the government to establish an impeachment process to provide an effective check on the power of the ruling elite who because of their wealth and status might be perceived to be beyond challenge for specific offences, such as corruption, abuse of power and violation of the Constitution.
It has proven to be a useful tool in other countries and could do the same for Guyana.
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