CCJ Has Ruled – Lawful Way Forward Imperative
Press Release, Guyana Trades Union Congress – 20th July 2019
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) calls for level headedness to prevail in the interpretation of the Consequential Orders of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Those orders specifically address three areas of focus for resolution on the way forward since the 21st December 2018 no-confidence vote against the APNU+AFC Government was declared validly passed. These are- the Executive, the Legislature/Parliament, and GECOM. The Government and Opposition have accepted the rulings and orders but once again have different interpretation how these should be realised.
The Executive (Government) and Parliament (Legislature)
The Executive in this current environment has been referred to by the CCJ as having “caretaker” status and advised that in this “role it should be restrained in the use of its legal authority.” There is no precise guideline/limitation on what a “caretaker” government means and what precisely constitutes “restrained in the use of legal authority” suited to our indigenous reality. This is why Government and Opposition must engage to establish the constrains to government functioning during a period like this that will be acceptable to both. It is not for Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo to determine what these must constitute and for the Government to act out of consort for the bonafide concerns of the Opposition.
Further, the CCJ as per its release dated 12th July 2019 ruled “Article 106 is clear and it should be followed.” Article 106, which is titled ‘The Cabinet’ has seven clauses. And whereas Clause 6 says “the Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of the majority…;” Clause 7 says that “[n]otwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office…and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.” We should all acquaint ourselves and abide with the seven clauses of Article 106 and allow the Government to use its legal authority to conduct the business of this country. Anything outside of this is anarchy.
Both Opposition and Government must go back to Parliament to address Article 106 in its entirety. Respect for the CCJ’s ruling would see adherence to this, what should happen next after a confidence vote is passed, and the fact that litigation was a contributing factor in putting a pause on election being held “within three months.” GTUC is well aware returning to the National Assembly may appear as though one side is losing ground, but this is not about losing ground it is about saving Guyana, utilising law and order.
The nation has gone past the 90 days as prescribed in clause 7 to hold an election, which kicks in the other conditionality of “or such longer period” as to when election can be held. And outside of GECOM, a constitutionally independent body, stating its readiness to holding election, the extant clause requires activation by “resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine.” Government and Opposition must return to the Assembly to give effect to this clause. Why is there no effort to seek a constitutional resolution as instructed by the CCJ as opposed to a political one with the potential for conflict?
This nation can take the example of political patience and respect for the Rule of Law being faithfully exhausted in other societies. Take the United States (U.S) and United Kingdom (U.K) for instance, they are utilising the Judiciary and Legislature to resolve serious differences with President Donald Trump administration, and leaving the European Union as with the UK As we watch and see the methodical and patient pursuit and execution of the law, why aren’t our politicians learning and adopting these best practices of resolution of conflict. This nation must not be torn apart every time there is political difference and the issue of election comes up.
Election seems to be an opportunity not just to pursue a particular path of development but also to drive wedges between our people. It’s a shame our 21st century politics reflect the backwardness of the 19th century and anti-progressive societies. Gut feelings and passions have their place, but we cannot depend on that in matters relating to governance where the Rule of Law must take precedence.
There is no doubt election has to be held. This is not a willy nilly process and it is one that has serious implications for all of us and the way forward.
We remind this nation in 2006 then President Bharrat Jagdeo, himself faced with an electoral process, in an address to the nation said, “The law says that GECOM shall define the form of verification of the list or may decide on verification and will decide on what form it will take. Not the PPP, not the PNC, not any party, GECOM. That’s a constitutional body, independent just like the courts.” Neither the Constitution nor Elections Laws have changed since then. It is therefore an act of serious concern when a different posturing- seeking to dictate and malign personnel and the operations of GECOM- is now being pursued with a bullhorn, misrepresenting GECOM’s processes and the pathway to holding an election.
Similarly, as per CCJ release dated 12th July 2019, “As to the precise orders it should make, the CCJ cautioned, however, that it is not, ‘the role of the Court to establish a date on, or by which, the elections must be held’”.
Clearly, by now society should realise that despite the rhetoric, politicking and misleading statements we have come out of the CCJ empowered with the understanding that the no-confidence motion was validly passed, the process used to appoint the Chairman of GECOM was in violation of the Constitution, and the understanding that according to constitution GECOM is an independent body. Whereas this may not be pleasing to some or a loss to those looking for a different ruling, what is required is that we as a nation allow respect for the Rule of Law and do not interfere with a duly constituted body for election processes.
A peaceful way forward is imperative
Stirring up anger and inflaming passions as a means towards a political end have the potential for serious racial confrontation in this country. We should avoid this at all cause, for there will be no victors only losers. We also leave ourselves vulnerable to external forces. The legal system is obviously working if we allow it to work, if we respect its ruling and if we allow a level of integrity and good will to guide our interpretations.
Both sides must exercise good faith and trust and put together agreed mechanisms how government must function in a caretaker mode. Both sides must return to Parliament and execute their duty consistent with the Constitution. It is a demonstration of good will and willingness to work together to arrive at a mutually satisfying
Both sides operating in good faith will better command respect and trust that they are capable of resolving the current impasse and not sacrificing the well-being of supporters for political gain. They must give leadership and guidance to get out of this political morass with all its potential hazards at this juncture of our growth. Equal onus is on the Leader of the Opposition to be responsible in his use of language and to desist from making misleading statements that will play to those who are vulnerable and easily influenced.
An era that has come to an end whereby if any one group believes that they can govern at the exclusion of any other, with mere token representation to window dress inclusion, that will not be acceptable. Hence political gamesmanship must not take precedence over wise decision-making in keeping with the Rule of Law.
The GTUC is concerned about those whose only interest is seemingly securing their individual and corporate interests at the expense of the working class. There is no evidence to date of genuine efforts to build on the foundation of creating a political system of inclusion where all can benefit and feel valued. There is a standstill in development and factoring the needs of diverse communities. The essence of grassroots development is lost to this era of politicians on all sides, replacing it with avaricious and self-serving behaviours.
Say what you will about Cheddie Jagan and Forbes Burnham they had a genuine interest in the development of this nation and its people. We are yet to see 34 years after Burnham’s passing any vision, any development that matches his era. We are yet to see 22 years after Jagan’s passing the willingness to sit and negotiate with his opponent across the table.