OPINION: The ship of Guyana is sinking

0

By: Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP

Attorney-at-Law

By the time this article is read, a week would have elapsed from the 12 July 2019, when the Caribbean Court of Justice delivered certain orders consequential to its decision rendered on 18 June 2019, in the No Confidence Motion cases and the challenge filed by Zulfikar Mustapha to the appointment of retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM.

Among the Orders made in the No Confidence Motion cases, is the following:

“… (f) Upon the passage of this motion of No Confidence in the Government, the clear provisions of Article 106, IMMEDIATELY BECAME ENGAGED”.

Speaking on the provisions of Article 106 of the Constitution of Guyana, the Court said:

“their meaning is clear and it is the responsibility of constitutional actors in Guyana to honour them. Upon the passage of a vote of no confidence, the Article requires the resignation of the Cabinet including the President. The Article goes on to state, among other things, that notwithstanding such resignation the Government shall remain in office and that an election will be held “within 3 months’ or such longer period that the National Assembly by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all elected members of the National Assembly…”. The Guyana Elections Commission has that responsibility to conduct that elections and GECOM too MUST abide by the provisions of the Constitution.

Given the passage of the No Confidence motion on 21 December 2018, a General Election should have been held in Guyana by 21 March 2019, unless a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly had resolved to extend that period. The National Assembly is yet to extend the period. The filing of the court proceedings in January challenging the validity of the no confidence vote effectively placed matters on pause, but this Court rendered its decision on 18 June 2019. There is no appeal from that Judgment”

The Court further exhorted that the relevant political actors be guided by constitutional imperatives and expressed the hope that these “bodies and personages will exercise their responsibilities with integrity and in keeping with the unambiguous provisions of the Constitution bearing in mind that the no confidence motion was validly passed as long ago as 21 December 2018.” Again, at paragraph (8) of the judgment, the CCJ reiterates for emphasis, “the three month deadline … for the holding of fresh elections.”

Recall that the CCJ joined GECOM in the No Confidence Motion cases specifically because it wanted GECOM to be directly bound by all Orders it will make, recognizing of course, GECOM’s pivotal role in the electoral process.

In respect of the Zulfikar Mustapha’s case, the Court issued the following seminal admonitions:

“It is now a matter of the greatest public importance that the President and the Leader of the Opposition should, as soon as possible, embark upon and conclude the process of appointing a new GECOM Chairman. This imperative is now of the utmost urgency in light of our decision in the no confidence motion cases that the motion was validly passed thereby triggering the need for fresh general elections.”

A week after, in deliberate and wanton violation and disregard of the judicial pronouncements from Guyana’s apex court, Cabinet has not resigned, the President has not issued a Proclamation dissolving Parliament or fix a date for elections not later than 18 September 2019, and GECOM has sent no signal that it is prepared to hold any elections within the timeframe contemplated by the CCJ and mandated by Article 106(7) of the Constitution; and no Chairman has been appointed to GECOM by the President despite numerous engagements with the Leader of the Opposition, through which, not 6 but 15 names have already been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition to the President.

On the contrary, and to manifest their willful disrespect for and vulgar disobedience of the edicts issued by the CCJ, the Government has issued a statement that Cabinet will continue to function, the President insists on submitting names to himself, for appointment to the GECOM chair, and Keith Lowenfield, the Chief Elections Officer, is preparing to carry out political directions from Congress Place, to do House to House registration, which will clearly make the holding of elections within the timeframe contemplated by the CCJ and Article 106(7) of the Constitution (18 September 2019), virtually impossible.

Readers will clearly recall when Stanley Marcus SC, appearing for GECOM, informed the CCJ on 28 June 2018, that House to House registration will conclude on the 25 December 2019 (earliest), and that elections are likely to be held in February 2020, President, Justice Saunders, held up the Constitution in his hand and asked “What you want me to do with this document? Rewrite it? Ignore it?”

So the Executive Government of Guyana and GECOM, are clearly demonstrating to the CCJ and the world, that they are not prepared to be bound by the Constitution or the lawful Orders of the summit Court of the hierarchical structure of Guyana’s Judiciary. When that happens in a nation state, that nation is cascading with alacrity into an abyss where the rule of law, the Constitution and democratic institutions of the State, collapse into anarchy. Guyana is now there. Authoritarians are now desperately clinging to what is left of the authority of the State for their parasitic survival. Our country is being transformed right before our eyes into one of the rogue nations of the world.

The struggle, therefore, must climb to a different ante. The ship of Guyana is sinking. She needs the support of all her patriotic sons and daughters on board, to navigate it out from the tumultuous anarchical waters in which she is trapped, back to the tranquil sea of the rule of law and constitutional governance.  I will continue to play my small part. Those who choose to sit on the fence, do so at their own peril.