(The following is a response by PPP Executive Member and former Attorney General, Mohabir Anil Nandlall to recent controversial comments made by current Minister of State Joe Harmon)
The immunities which are conferred upon the President of Guyana by Article 182 of the Constitution are expressed in reasonably clear language.
They can be paraphrased thus: a President shall not be personally answerable to any court for any act done in the performance in the functions of his office; no criminal, nor civil proceedings can be instituted against him, in his personal capacity in respect of any acts done in the performance of his office, either during the term of office or thereafter; while he holds office or performs the functions of Office of the President, no criminal nor civil proceedings shall be instituted or continued against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him in his private capacity.
Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, held the Office of President and performed the functions of that office during the period 11 August 1999 – 3 December 2011. It is equally clear that Pradoville 2 was developed and lots allocated thereof to the several allotees during the period that Mr. Jagdeo was President.
Applying the clear and literal language of Article 182 of the Constitution, whatever may have been his role, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, is not personally answerable to any Court for it, nor can criminal or civil proceedings be instituted against him for it. If a person is not answerable to a Court for; any acts committed during a given period and/or, no criminal nor civil proceedings can be personally instituted against him in relation thereto, it logically follows that he cannot be arrested or detained for any of those acts. Consequently, there is no doubt that, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo’s, arrest and detention were unlawful.
Whether a constitutional entitlement enures to a person or not and to what extent it does so, can never fall to be determined by a Policeman. It is unfortunate that such a view emanates from a lawyer. These are the types of uninitiated utterances which send wrong and dangerous signals. They can result in high constitutional protections, rights and freedoms to be whittled down by the opinion and interpretation of a legally untrained Policeman. I am sure that, Mr. Harmon, would not allow the constitutional legal immunities which he enjoys for things said and done in the Parliament, to be determined by a Police Constable. Imagine what will happen if, Mr. Harmon, is arrested in the Parliament compound for something he said in an address to the National Assembly.
There is absolutely nothing contained within the letter or spirit of Article 182 of the Constitution which lends to the interpretation, that a Former President can or will lose the immunities which he enjoyed as President if he returns to active politics. Such a proposition is so deeply flawed that it only needs to be stated to be rejected. Being in active politics, holding political views and engaging in political agitations are all guaranteed to every citizen as a fundamental right and freedom by the very Constitution. It lacks rationality that a person will or can lose a protection which the Constitution affords by the exercise of a right which the very Constitution confers. Is it not absurd to contend that Mr. Jagdeo’s presidential immunities would have remained intact if he had pursued a career in cricket after he demitted office but that he stands to lose it, if he returns to active politics?
More significantly by advancing the latter argument, Mr. Harmon have unwittingly corroborated the opposition’s contentions that the recent arrests and detention were politically driven, were an expression of political witch-hunting and were intended to intimidate the political opposition. We now have, from the mouth of one of the highest ranking official of this Government, who happens to be an Attorney-at-Law, confirming that if a Former President continues to participate in active politics, the Government will deny him his constitutional immunities.
The matter is further compounded by President Granger on the very day expressing a wholly different view on the very issue. To those who cannot see the clear writing on the wall, you are indeed blind.
(INews make every effort to get a reaction from Minister Harmon on the above views expressed by Mr Nandlall)