Less than 24 hours after Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams publicly rejected the Caribbean Court of Justice’s appellate jurisdiction in relation to the validity of the No-Confidence Motion, passed in the National Assembly in December 2018, the People’s National Congress (PNC) went into damage-control mode and sought to distance itself from the Minister’s comments.
The PNC’s General Secretary, Amna Ally, on Saturday, told INews that Minister Hastings does not – and cannot, speak for the PNC; only the General Secretary, who has the authority to do so, can.
“She would have heard that the President said that the Government accepts the ruling of the CCJ; because it was very clear from the President (Granger) that we accept the ruling,” Ally told this publication.
But while the party’s General Secretary seems to be apologetic and distancing herself from the Minister’s statement, one senior civil society commentator on Saturday told this newspaper that the Minister would have been inclined to make such statements given the posture of the party, with its history of cavalier dismissal of the Judiciary in the recent past.
In one instance, the commentator noted that President David Granger, himself, brushed aside the Chief Justice’s ruling, in relation to the interpretation of the Constitution of Guyana with respect to the appointment of a Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, saying that “her perception” was not his “perception”.
“The Chief Justice gave an interpretation based on her perception of the law, and I will continue to act in accordance with my perception of the Constitution; that is to say, I will not appoint somebody who I do not consider fit and proper,” the President had said on July 19, 2017 as he dismissed the Judge’s interpretation of the Constitution – because of the qualification for who was “fit and proper” to be appointed as the Chair of GECOM.
The civil society commentator also recalled the incident with Attorney General Basil Williams and Justice Franklin Holder to highlight the party’s disrespect towards the Judiciary.
In 2017, Trade Unionist Carvil Duncan had moved to the Court to block the work of a Presidential Tribunal that was set up to determine whether he should be removed from his post as Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) in light of criminal charges proffered against him, which have since been dismissed by the Magistrate’s Court.
Justice Holder had complained to acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards that during the March 23, 2017 hearing of the case, he abruptly walked out of the courtroom because of statements made by the Attorney General.
He quoted the Attorney General as saying, “I could say what I want to say and however I want to say it, I have always been like that…The last Magistrate who (told me what to do) was later found dead.”
Justice Holder had said in his complaint that he felt disrespected by the Attorney General’s behaviour. He had called for an apology to be proffered to him in open Court before he would proceed with the case. The Judge eventually recused himself from the case.
According to the commentator, this display by the PNC senior officials is what led to members of the party to have disregard for the Judiciary in general. In fact, the commentator noted that the President, himself, defied the CCJ when he called for house-to-house registration following the CCJ ruling last Tuesday before the Court issued its consequential orders due on Monday.
“If the senior members are doing it, obviously, the junior members will automatically take the same position and posture,” the commentator said.
Several civil society persons have since said that the PNC does not have internal conflict reflected by comments of Government ministers and PNC functionaries, which were seemingly contradictory to President David Granger’s public statement that he has accepted the CCJ’s decision that his Government has been toppled, but that they did not expect the public outrage and are engaged in damage control.
It has also been posited by a political analysis that the protest was intended to intimidate the CCJ into not making consequential orders that would force GECOM to hold elections within a timeframe consistent with what the constitution of Guyana says.
However, according to the analysis the protest action by a few APNU supports intended to influence the court against making strong consequential orders failed miserably and was poorly attended.