The political challenges in Guyana at election time is not new. What is new is the reaction and responses by trusted allies which give rise to concern whether at the end of the process this nation risks being rend asunder, beyond repair.
It is the right of the Opposition parties, as they advance their election interest, to approach the courts for judicial review. The same right must be respected for every citizen and organisation, including any supporter of the government and the parties within the coalition. Our courts function to ensure legal justice and aid in bringing resolution to grievances through peaceful means. The reality recognises that they are instances where either of the litigating parties may not be satisfied, but this does not mean or lend justification to treating the court with contempt.
The court is the only even-handed approach to balance any outcome in a modern society. It is the only place where you can get a fair outcome. It may not be perfect, but it is as fair as we can do in the moment. If there are weaknesses in our laws that need adjusting or correcting we can move to address these after, for they cannot be addressed at the time of application to an extant issue.
The law is the only way for us to come to some commonsense, plausible, realistic conclusion in a chaotic situation. Even if we are all fighting for our own beliefs the laws keep us together as a country. Though in politics the environment is supposed to be civil, oftentimes it ends in confusion, but the laws tend to pull us back to civility. Therefore, the judicial system is critical to every modern society. A society without law is chaotic, lawless and primitive.
We are facing threats from outside forces that do not want to respect our laws (sovereignty) as they respect theirs and expect all others to do so. The law of the land is the law of the land. Even the good book admonishes respect for the law of the land. We might have cultural differences with another country’s law, but it is important to recognise that each country’s laws are unique for them.
We also need to do some introspection. We cannot ask for help from others without recognising they are inclined to tell us what to do, not necessarily mindful of or respecting our laws. We are witnessing our laws being supplanted by gut-feelings. Making decisions or speaking out of emotions is undermining the Rule of Law. The dysfunctionality is being allowed to run rampant, encouraged, and supported by external forces.
The challenges Guyana faces with sections of the international community go back to the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) in December 2018. The moving parts could leave one to think what is unfolding may be bigger than us or driven to achieve a desired outcome not consistent with our collective interest.
The NCM moved through the High Court, Court of Appeal and court of last resort, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). On 18th June 2019 the CCJ ruled the vote was validly passed, upheld Article 106(6) and 106(7) of the Constitution of Guyana. On 12th July 2019 the Court issued Consequential Orders to guide its ruling. There was non-compliance with the order to return to the National Assembly to secure the two-third vote to hold the election beyond the three months as per Article 106(7). Calls by the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) to respect this fell on deaf ears.
Instructive also was the disregard for the order by forces, local and external, for the continuity of the government (President and cabinet). As per the order even though resigned as per Article 106 (6) government was allowed to continue to function as per Article 106(7), albeit operating at a different level. There was no international support to ensure the enforcement of these Orders outside of the demand to move to election.
We fast forward today to the election process and witness this continuous disregard for our laws. It is one thing when disregard is shown by internal forces- though it does not make it acceptable- but more egregious when external forces feel they could escape accountability. Those who disregard our laws would not be allowed to get away with the misconduct in their countries, for the wrath of their citizens will be brought down on them, and their laws will be used to hold them accountable.
The foreign investors, some within the privileged local private sector, together with the foreign interferers did not cater for the understanding and resilience of a large section of the Guyanese community. This community is not prepared to be disrespected, have our natural resources raped, our laws trampled on, nor dictated to. Though they may operate within and out of Guyana but as citizens of the world, regardless of where they reside, they feel Guyana and Guyanese are equally deserving to be respected and treated with dignity. They see activism as vital to Guyana’s quest for worldwide comity.
People today retrieve information through the tap of a finger. They are virtual observers, knowledge takers and participants of what is happening in society, theirs, and others. Whereas some may harbour the view that the leaders of the government are dis-organised and will bow to pressure, they did not cater for the citizens. Though disparate in location and organisation it would be a folly to disrespect or take for granted their intolerance for being disrespected.
The struggle to ensure respect for our laws, due process, the right to be heard, the integrity of the election, the rulings of the court is being waged primarily by the people. The international community has miscued and is underestimating the intelligence and resilience of the people. The Court of Appeal has ruled on the issue of valid votes. This ruling is being challenged in the CCJ and the parties are being given the opportunity to have their side heard.
The CCJ is our final recourse to legal justice. The Judiciary is our last bastion of independent statehood. Our legal system must be given a chance to work and we must respect its ruling as the prevailing law even if we may find disagreement. We must move forward from this position. Further, progressive thinking requires we use the rulings of the court to establish legislation to strengthen and tighten our structures. Guyana and Guyanese must be better served from these experiences.
It is the Rule of Law (Judiciary) that must determine the closure of election not the opinion of any other, local or foreign. Guyanese demand and expect no more, no less.
(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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