Sovereignty of people case: Jagdeo assuages public concerns, will remain PPP’s GS regardless of outcome

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As the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is set to make a ruling on the Guyana Government’s appeal of the constitutional challenge to presidential term limits on Tuesday, July 26, 2018, Opposition Leader and General Secretary (GS) of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), Dr Bharrat Jagdeo says that regardless of the outcome he will remain actively involved in the party in the capacity of the GS.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Jagdeo, in a statement, attributed his remarks to the outpouring from the multitudes of supporters of the PPP/C and “even across the political divide” who he said made contact with him.

He outlined that many concerns were raised, including the public statements of those in Government in respect of a particular outcome.

As such, Jagdeo posited that he will “continue to spearhead the Party’s struggle for a better life for all Guyanese, especially the working people, the poor and the under-privileged, for racial and national unity and for victory at the polls at the next Local Government, Regional and National Elections.”

Moreover, he noted that “unlike the 2011-2015 period, where I played no formal part in the PPP Administration, I intend to be a formal part of the next PPP government as we resume the implementation of plans to build a better country of which all our people can feel proud.”

The court ruling is expected to be handed down by Sir Dennis Byron, the current President of the Trinidad-based CCJ. Sir Dennis is expected to demit office on July 3, while Justice Adrian Saunders will assume the presidency on July 4.

Outgoing CCJ President, Sir Dennis Byron

The outcome of this matter could be a deciding factor as to whether Jagdeo will be the PPP/C’s presidential candidate in the 2020 General Elections. Jagdeo was previously elected President in 2001 and 2006.

Coming out of the legal arguments from both sides was whether Article 90 of Guyana’s Constitution by way of Act 17 of 2001 infringed on Articles 1 and 9 of the said Constitution. Attorney General Basil Williams said Act 17 of 2000 was validly passed. He said the Basic Structure Doctrine was not applicable to Guyana.

This court action, among other things, challenged the constitutionality of the National Assembly-sanctioned two-term limit on the presidency.

Guyana’s Court of Appeal ruled in February 2017 that the constitutional amendments by Parliament to limit the number of times a person could serve as President were unconstitutional.

During that February decision, then acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, was supported by Justice of Appeal BS Roy in upholding then acting Chief Justice Ian Chang’s decision that the amendments were unconstitutional.

The decision which the Appellate Justices upheld signalled that an amendment to the Constitution on presidential term limits, 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.

Attorney General (AG) Williams had appealed the Appeal Court’s landmark ruling in February 2017 that declared that sovereignty resides in the people and not in the Parliament; and as such, certain fundamental clauses in the Constitution that serve to define its substantive nature can be altered only by a referendum of the people.

AG Williams and his colleague, Raphael Trotman, challenged the ruling in the CCJ.

The decision to refer the matter to the CCJ was presided over by acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Appellate Judge Dawn Gregory and then High Court Judge Rishi Persaud.

If that appeal is unsuccessful, then the voters of Guyana would have a choice of four classes of persons that were barred by Act 17 of 2001.

Amended Article 90 had specified that (A) only a citizen by birth or parentage can qualify to be the President; (B) a person must be residing in Guyana on the date of nomination for election; (C) a person must have been a resident for seven years immediately before that date, and (D) citizens of Guyana who have served for two terms as President were barred from re-election.

Meanwhile, the PPP GS said he remained “absolutely humbled at the over-whelming confidence which the Guyanese people have continued to place in me and I remain eternally grateful for their continued support.”

See Jagdeo’s full statement below:

It is public knowledge, that on Tuesday, 26th July 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice is scheduled to deliver its ruling in the constitutional case of Attorney General of Guyana v Cedric Richardson. Multitudes of supporters of the PPP/C and even across the political divide have made contact with me.

Many concerns were raised, including the public statements of those in Government in respect of a particular outcome.

As a result, I am moved to publicly assure that whatever the ruling is, I am and will remain the General Secretary of the PPP. In that capacity, I will continue to spearhead the Party’s struggle for a better life for all Guyanese, especially the working people, the poor and the under-privileged, for racial and national unity and for victory at the polls at the next Local Government, Regional and National Elections.

Unlike the 2011-2015 period, where I played no formal part in the PPP Administration, I intend to be a formal part of the next PPP government as we resume the implementation of plans to build a better country of which all our people can feel proud.

Ours is a Party not built on personalities but on policies, all designed to create a better life for our people, and forge racial, ethnic and class unity. I remain committed to these policies and causes and will continue to struggle with the Party to achieve them.

I remain absolutely humbled at the over-whelming confidence which the Guyanese people have continued to place in me and I remain eternally grateful for their continued support.

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