The talk around the country this past week was about the ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice. The issue was the court challenge brought by a man, Cedric Richardson, who I am certain had no interest in local politics.
I am forced to go back more than a decade when, at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, I asked the then-President Bharrat Jagdeo whether he would be seeking another run at the presidency. In the presence of foreign reporters, my head of state clearly said that he was done at the end of his tenure.
For some reason, perhaps people kept seeing something. The then-head of state was asked this question repeatedly. On each occasion the answer was similar to the one President Jagdeo gave in Trinidad. Later, in private conversations, Mr. Jagdeo said that there was so much more to do away from the presidency.
He spoke of writing a book; he spoke of his role on the international stage in the area of global warming. On another occasion, this time in a conversation with some local reporters, Mr. Jagdeo said that he was bored with cutting ribbons and shaking hands.
When this challenge to the decision came, there was no doubt that Mr. Jagdeo was behind it. I, at a press conference asked Mr. Jagdeo whether he was funding the challenge by Cedric Richardson. He answered in the negative.
Former President Donald Ramotar said that the People’s Progressive Party was not funding the challenge. I was interested in who had the deep pockets. To this day I never found out. There was a cost to have the challenge before the Chief Justice. It was some time before that ruling came. Indeed, people inside the People’s Progressive Party all said that the law was clear, that no person can serve more than two consecutive terms.
The government appealed the decision and lost in the Guyana Court of Appeal. Chancellor Carl Singh, just days before he demitted office, ruled in favour of the Chief Justice—a person could serve more than two terms. There was a dissenting vote by current Chancellor, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards.
At this stage I began to wonder which president was in a position to serve more than two consecutive terms. The only person was Mr. Jagdeo. All eyes therefore turned to the former president. The conclusion was that he was interested in running for office again. His previous comments about not being interested were nothing but hot air.
Yet he needed the benefit of the doubt, because he continued to confirm that he was not prepared to run again. There were his followers who made it known that they wanted him as president.
So it was on Tuesday that when the decision came there was a lot of disappointment. Indeed, one PPP representative in the National Assembly injected the race issue. He claimed that the people at the CCJ were kith and kin of the David Granger administration. In his eyes, he saw the administration as African-oriented, despite the presence of people of other ethnic groups.
He had made this comment earlier when he had a gut feeling that the ruling was going to be against a third term. After the decision, he repeated his racist rant, but that letter has not seen the light of day in the press.
If Mr. Jagdeo was not behind the challenge, the fact that he called a press conference almost immediately after the ruling told another story.
Some of the leaders in the party welcomed the ruling by the CCJ, but there were others who were like sheep, refusing to comment for fear of offending Mr. Jagdeo. We couldn’t get a comment from Anil Nandlall and we couldn’t get one from Irfaan Ali. They are both contenders for the presidency, at least for the right to be the party’s presidential candidate.
Of interest is the fact that Mr. Jagdeo has stamped himself as the person who would determine the presidential candidate. At a press conference, he literally nixed Charles Ramson Jr. This young man had openly stated his intention or at least his desire to be the party’s presidential candidate.
If Mr. Jagdeo is the powerhouse he believes and says he is, then we can be certain that people like Clement Rohee, Gail Teixeira, and even Donald Ramotar will not be candidates. Mr. Jagdeo says that they will have to dress down. They are the old folks.
Has he rocked the party to its core? I think so. I expect to hear leaders openly challenging him. Perhaps we may see a reaction that sent Khemraj Ramjattan and Moses Nagamootoo into the arms of the Alliance For Change.
I interviewed the lawyers who represented the government in the wake of the CCJ decision and learnt some interesting things. For one, Chief Justice Ian Chang and Chancellor Carl Singh changed the law for political expediency. They tried to deny that the Parliament is the representative and the voice of the people, and they so ruled.
The Parliament had voted unanimously that no person can serve more than two consecutive terms.
Justice Cummings-Edwards saw the flaw in Chang and Singh’s contention and she penned an excellent decision, one that I have read at least twice. I hasten to note that to the best of my knowledge, this is the second dissenting vote that she handed down to gain the support of the CCJ. The first was in a libel suit brought by Dr. Walter Ramsahoye against Kaieteur News. I respect her opinions; they are rooted in the law.
The lawyers for the government also noted that Mr. Jagdeo should not take any consolation from the dissenting vote at the CCJ. For starters, the entire court – seven judges – sat to hear this case. They must have found it to be most interesting.
Six of them voted to allow the appeal. The dissenting vote did not find favour with the principle of democracy that had been in existence since the days of the Greeks when they met in the marketplace.
Asked to comment on the ruling by Justice Chang and Justice Carl Singh, Solicitor General Ms. Kim Kyte-Thomas said that such rulings make law interesting. Lawyers are confronted with different interpretations of the law.
And I must look at life for Jagdeo after the CCJ ruling. I know that he detests me. He sees me as a dyed-in-the-wool PNC, just as he is a dyed-in-the-wool PPP. But my political position, in his eyes, is criminal. Quite correctly, he argues that I am in my sunset years, but I am certainly not senile. Suffice it to say that I have children, grandchildren and even great grand-children to keep me company and make me happy.
Mr. Jagdeo, with nothing to make him a formidable person in the society, will not have the clout he had as president and as the mover and shaker in his party. He will now have to invoke people to walk with him. His circle of friends would get smaller because that is how some of his hangers-on are. No power, no need for him.
He will try to remain in the public eye by holding more press conferences, something he rarely did when he was president. Sections of the press would attend for a few more sessions then fade away. He will make outlandish statements, one of which is in the pages of today’s Kaieteur News.
Finally, he will be an ordinary citizen, just like Mrs. Janet Jagan, albeit a very rich one.
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