This nation has been rend asunder by deceit and open contempt by some forces for the Rule of Law because it did not work in their favour every step of the way. What must be recognised and ought not to be lost sight of is that the only opinion, interpretation and decision that matters on issues pertaining to the law regarding the No-confidence Motion (NCM) is that of the court. Taking objection to the ruling is not an entitlement to misrepresent or fail to uphold same.
Last Wednesday acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire SC ruling on the status of Cabinet has been answered. The CJ ruled the 18th June verdict by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) “…clearly stated that notwithstanding this [immediate resignation], the tenure in office of the Cabinet, including the President, as well as Government as a whole, ‘is on a different footing’– is that of a caretaker mode consequent to the passage of the said NCM.”
The ruling of the court may not put an end to some view that the government is illegal, the Cabinet should resign, or protests by the Opposition at events attended by President David Granger and his ministers. Some who heralded the CJ ruling in January that the NCM was validly passed today accuse her of having sinister agenda.
Some have sought to bring disrepute to the CCJ, cherry picking aspects of the ruling that found favour with them and misrepresenting those to their displeasure. We have witnessed full-scale assault on this institution and by extension regional integration built on a common history of struggle against exploitative systems and values imposed by persons outside of the region who never saw our interest as primary.
This matter is not about President David Granger or the Coalition Government, who happen to be the principal political actors at this time; it is about our sovereignty, our institutions, the Rule of Law and how we use same to shield and advance our collective interest, our collective well-being.
The judiciary issued its rulings on the status of the NCM, cabinet, government; its absence of authority to set a date or timeline for election; the role of the President, GECOM and the National Assembly in determining the date. The Court did its work. The Guyana Elections Commission is its part. The National Assembly must now do its part, and we the people must see it as duty to ensure this branch of government does its work.
The CCJ in its Judgement of 12th July at Item 7 expressly states: “Article 106 of the Constitution invests in the President and the National Assembly (and implicitly in GECOM), responsibilities that impact on the precise timing of the elections which must be held.” This is not difficult to understand and the decision could not be clearer.
The PPP cannot accept the CCJ’s ruling that the NCM was validly passed but reject the said body’s judgement that the determination of a date for election such “responsibilities” lie with “…the President and the National Assembly (and implicitly in GECOM).…” as per Article 106. Further, its position election should have been held by September 18th which for them represents three months from the 18th June ruling evidently runs contrary to the extant ruling.
Since the 12th July, the CJ in hearing the Fixed Date Application to have the election by 18th September on 2nd August reportedly expressed, “we are supposedly in a period of an extension for the timeframe for holding elections, but that extension has not been agreed to.” She is quoted directly as saying, “We are still waiting on the National Assembly to meet” (See KN, 3rd August “Elections date long gone-Chief Justice”).
Let it be made clear. The only opinion, interpretation and decision that matters on issues pertaining to the law regarding the NCM is that of the court. This is where we the people, who elected Parliamentarians to represent us, must see to it that they respect the Constitution they swore to uphold and the Court ruling which is premised on said instrument.
I read in last Thursday’s Stabroek News the President reportedly “said that the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, has made it clear that he has no intentions of returning to Parliament. He said he has not prorogued the National Assembly nor has he dissolved Parliament and he is awaiting the advice of Attorney General Basil Williams on the date for the dissolution for Parliament” (See, ‘President says will dissolve Parliament at appropriate time’). This could be perceived as taking a defeatist position and joining with the Opposition Leader to disregard the Constitution and the verdict of the judiciary.
This is the only aspect of the Court ruling the government is yet to comply with and it must not now do anything to violate the Rule of Law. If the Opposition does not want to return to the National Assembly this must not prevent the government from convening the House, putting on the Order Paper the issue of giving effecting to Item 7 of the Judgement and voting on it. It must never be seen where the government has the responsibility to discharge its duty in the process it failed to or chose to violate the edict of the Court.
The Rule of Law is sacrosanct. It advances and safeguards our collective well-being. The coalition must not now put itself in a position to be so accused, now or in the future, of trampling same and where litigation is bound to arise as a result of such action and/or if the election results do not find favour with some. Government, in spite of attacks from various quarters accusing it of violating the Judgement, must never put itself in a position to be so rightly accused. As a citizen, a public appeal is being made to give effect to the totality of Item 7.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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