An online news agency has reported that the Guyana Government will ask the Caribbean Court of Justice (the Court) to rule that the Court cannot or should not direct that general elections are to be held within three months because that “will clearly be obstructing Parliament from exercising its constitutional power to extend the time if it becomes necessary to do so. The Court would be acting prematurely, and setting itself up for a clash with the Parliament”.
With respect, one has to disagree with this sentiment. First of all, the Court cannot undo what the Constitution has done. Since the Court already ruled that the December 21, 2018, No-Confidence Motion was validly passed by operation of law, the follow-up elections must be held “within three months”. It is the Constitution (not the Court) which tells us when elections must be held following the Motion. The Motion cannot be divorced from the timely and follow-up elections.
Secondly, the record shows that it is Government and their friends who voluntarily and knowingly opened the door of the Court and asked for opinions. Since they opened the door, they cannot now close it.
Thirdly, there is no clash between the Court and Parliament. The only “clash” is one between this illegal Government and the Constitution. If Government is concerned about a potential “clash” between the Court and Parliament, then that clash can be avoided, if there is a clash at all, by obeying the Constitution and calling elections within three months.
But Government is not asking for this. In fact, Government is doing the opposite.
Fourthly, the Opposition has indicated that it has no intention of going to Parliament to extend the timeframe for elections. Even if it wanted to, Government made this difficult given its actions since December 21, 2018, with the lone exception being Government’s initial acceptance that the Motion was validly passed and, therefore, elections are to be timely called.
Parliament is not a place for an elector to be assaulted or to receive a death threat by members of Government, simply for exercising his constitutional right to vote. It is not a place for Government to honour any Islamic fundamentalist who fed sensitive information about Guyana’s national security to a foreign nation and subscribed to international terrorism.
Both Parliament and a law enacted in Parliament must be respected. At the very least, a fallen Administration that seeks to invoke a law inside Parliament for a specified relief of an extension of time, is expected if not required, to show good cause for the delay and meritorious defences to the claims raised in the underlying motion.
Here, Government has neither. Government cannot argue, for example, as one intelligent Government official did a few weeks ago, that Government only went to Court because the Speaker of the House instructed them to do so. Government has a Minister of Legal Affairs who has a staff. It has always been their job to give legal advice to Government both on and after December 21, 2018, when Government publicly declared that the Motion was passed and, therefore, elections within three months have been triggered.
Finally, Government is also reported as asking the Court to direct that there must be House-to-House Registration before any “credible” elections are held. In the old days, Guyanese argued for “free and fair” elections. Now Government is uncomfortable with “free and fair” elections, so it is busy trying to re-invent the electoral landscape.
Having failed with mathematics, they are now dabbling with the English language to do so, but are likely to further mislead the public. If any election is to be “credible” it ought to fall within the ambit of the law, because an event cannot be “credible” if it violates the Constitution.
Unless the Opposition agrees to an extension of time, Government’s so-called “credible” elections must occur within three months. Yet, Government is asking for its version of elections to occur beyond three months at some unknown time in the near or distant future, so as to have House-to-House Registration.
Therefore, under these circumstances, when this illegal Government says it wants a “credible” election, all it is doing is asking for an extrajudicial or illegal election.