PPP yet to discuss presidential term limit – Jagdeo

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…Party’s best interest will define 2020 presidential candidate

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has made it pellucid that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is yet to discuss the presidential term limit case.

Since former Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang ruled that presidents can now run for more than two terms, and the Court of Appeal upheld the judgment in a 2-1 decision, expectations have been high that Jagdeo, a former President who already served two terms, will run for the high office again.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo
Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

But Jagdeo, during a press conference on Monday at the Party’s headquarters in Robb Street, Georgetown, made it clear that the PPP was yet to decide on its presidential candidate for the next elections in 2020.

The Party’s General Secretary explained that its leaders and members are dedicating their energies to more important matters such as reinvigorating the political organisation with younger people and with women, as well as spreading the message of the PPP across the country.

“We’re working to consolidate our support because the PPP lost some support in its traditional support areas amongst sugar workers and rice farmers; we are working hard to consolidate our support in Amerindian areas, and to broaden that support and in APNU support areas…we are working on a strategy to resume our work which we used to do in the past and we fell down on, to carry our message to those communities to broaden our support,” he explained.

Jagdeo said too that the PPP would intensify and extend its work among the business community, the middle class, the intellectuals, professionals as well as the prime supporters of the Party, the working class.

He also explained that the PPP was working on becoming more efficient and on trying to incubate a new set of leaders who would recognise and appreciate that they have to “build their reputation based on hard work and that there is no room for arrogance in the Party”.

“Those are the things consuming me, not for who will run when the elections come,” the former President emphasised.

He stressed that the PPP, at the appropriate time, would decide on its presidential candidate, and he assured that the process of selection would be democratic and in accordance with the Party’s constitution.

“I am sure the Party will decide on who the best candidate will be at that point in time. A candidate who can lead us to victory, a competent candidate who can deliver on promises, a candidate who is visionary, a candidate who can bring people together,” he stated.

Jagdeo also reminded that the Party had supported the two-term limit in 1999, when the Constitution was reformed; however, he could not say whether the PPP’s position has changed.

“I speak for the PPP as the General Secretary, and we have not discussed this matter at the level of the Executive nor at the Central Committee. So, if you hear anyone else speak about what they know or what they don’t know, then they are not reflecting the views of the PPP. They are reflecting views as individuals,” Jagdeo said.

He told the media that when the time came for such discussions, the Party would discuss it in detail.

In further calming media reports that he may run again, Jagdeo emphasised that the Party’s members would have to follow certain criteria when deciding on a presidential candidate.

“Whoever the candidate we choose whenever the time comes, that decision would be made in accordance with our constitution, so it will be what is legal and secondly, what is in the best interest of the Party, supporters and the country,” he explained, noting that the Party would keep an open mind in the decision-making process.

The former President noted that it was rather foolish that persons would think the PPP was exerting all its efforts into ensuring that he ran for a third term.

“To have people think that a party like ours, particularly me given that responsibility (of General Secretary) and having been President for a long time would put all our eggs in one basket, that is the basket that ‘Jagdeo will run again’, is foolhardy and it is something that severely underestimates our thinking,” he posited.

In this regard, the Opposition Leader said, “For those who think that the decision is made and that we are putting all of our eggs in a single basket, if the APNU believes that, then they have another thing coming.”

Additionally, Jagdeo was surprised that the very persons who have levied all sorts of accusations against him now seem worried about him possibly running for a third term.

“I am so surprised that there is such a big outcry about Jagdeo and all of this, because I am supposed to be a dictator, mismanage the economy, be the most corrupt individual in Guyana; therefore, I make a terrible candidate,” he stated.

Challenge

Government had filed an appeal against Justice Chang’s ruling, but the Court of Appeal recently upheld that the term limit was unconstitutional.

Justice Chang’s ruling was appealed by then Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman and current Attorney General Basil Williams. The constitutional challenge case was brought by Georgetown resident Cedric Richardson in February 2015, and sought the court’s interpretation of the National Assembly’s changes to Article 90 as it related to four restraints on the freedom of choice by citizens at national elections. As adumbrated by Justice Chang, “The purported alteration of Article 90 by Act No 17 of 2001, in substance and effect, undoubtedly diminishes the democratic rights of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President, by excluding from presidential candidature:

(1) Citizens of Guyana not resident in Guyana on Nomination Day

(2) Citizens of Guyana resident in Guyana on Nomination Day but who have not been continuously resident in Guyana for seven years prior to that date

(3) Citizens of Guyana by registration

(4) Citizens of Guyana who have served for two terms as President. The ruling ultimately means that an amendment to the Constitution, which was enacted when the National Assembly altered Article 90 via a two-thirds vote in 2000, needs a referendum to make a final decision, since to proceed otherwise would be for the National Assembly to deny the citizens of Guyana an inalienable right.

Attorney General Basil Williams has said he will appeal that ruling in the Caribbean Court of Justice, and has 30 days to do so.

On Sunday last, Head of the 1999-2000 Constitutional Commission, Ralph Ramkarran suggested a referendum to amend the Constitution instead of having unnecessary expense by taking the matter to the CCJ. (Devina Samaroo Guyana Times)

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