…the constitutional crisis
The Constitution of a country is supposed to address its political questions – those that have to do ultimately with power, that is, which crop up as the people go about their business. The Constitution is like a contract where the citizens of the country set up the terms that’ll govern the institutions running the state. The state has the ultimate sanction of using force, if necessary, to ensure that it’s laws – as encompassed by the Constitution or emanating from it – are upheld.
A citizen breaks the law about not bashing fellow citizens over the head, and the forces of law (the courts) and order (the Police) will deal with him/her condignly. But what happens when the Head of State refuses to obey the Constitution itself?? Who deals with him condignly?? You have a full blown “constitutional crisis”, that’s what – and this is what we’re confronting in Guyana today.
What does the Constitution say about this situation? Well, Art 106 (6) says the President and Cabinet should’ve resigned by now. And Art 95 says if there isn’t a President, then the Prime Minister takes over. But since, in this case, the PM was a member of the Cabinet, he doesn’t exist. Who’s next in line? The same article says a designated Minister – but since all of these have been vaporised by the NCM vote, then according to the Art we’re down to the Chancellor.
The question, however, is exactly how do we bell the cat, when the ex-President insists on squatting on the presidency? Can we remove him for violating the Constitution? Well, Art 180 speaks to that…but assumes there’s a Parliament the speaker can summon to consider such a motion and if 2/3 of the members agree, then a tribunal will be set up to do the dirty. But we know this ain’t gonna happen and we’re back to the constitutional crisis of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object!!
The situation over in Venezuela suggests a way out. There, the 2018 re-election of President Maduro was disputed, and their National Assembly declared that the presidency should be filled in an interim way by the Assembly’s leader, Juan Guaidó. Maduro’s handpicked Supreme Court, however, ruled the National Assembly declaration unconstitutional and confirmed Maduro as President. Constitutional crisis, like ours!!
But the US took a stand— imposed sanctions and built national democratic coalitions to support Guaidó. This showed that the old rule of “non-interference” in the domestic affairs of states is breaking down after the international community realised how much suffering can be unleased on a populace by a rogue government.
Most of the world – including the US – have already condemned Granger.
Next step sanctions!!
Over the last five years, Granger has cultivated an image of avuncular unflappability combined with anodyne platitudes that helped mask (pun intended) the brutal actions he unleashed on perceived Opposition supporters. Shutting down 4 estates and firing 7000 sugar workers?? Not to worry, that was “right sizing” the industry!! Spending billions and billions on pageantry and monuments while starvation became endemic in Opposition enclaves?? No problem…men didn’t live by bread alone!!
But while he might’ve won the battle over the NCM by dragging it out in the courts, he hasn’t only lost the war, but also his aura of imperturbability. Like most bullies who thought he held all the cards, he just didn’t know when to stop. He overplayed his hand when he refused to proclaim elections even though he’d gotten all his demands met.
He’s been so rattled by the Opposition’s “in your face” protests and the foreign community condemnations, he exposed the fangs that were always there.
Burnham boasted about his “sharper steel”; Granger brought out the Riot Squad in full battle gear.
Next March, the World Court will be taking arguments on the jurisdictional issues in the Venezuelan-instigated border controversy.
Looks like the new government will have that albatross off their necks, in