Teixeira to Granger: Concede defeat and make honourable exit for the sake of country

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President David Granger being greeted by top security officials on his arrival for the national security meeting earlier today. (DPI photo)

Former Governance Advisor and Minister under the Peoples Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) administration, Gail Teixeira, has called on caretaker President David Granger to concede defeat in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections and make an “honourable retreat for the sake of country and our people”.

Teixeira, in a lengthy letter to the media, detailed a number of cases in which she accused the President of breaching the Constitution, saying “Granger’s assertions that he has always abided by the constitution provides little comfort to citizens”.

“Regrettably Mr. Granger has placed parliamentary democracy and rule of law in jeopardy as no President of Guyana since the 1980s,” the PPP/C Executive Member added.

Following is Teixeira’s full letter:

The Following is a letter to Mr David Granger’s repeated statement that he has “always, even before March 2nd, emphasized and iterated that I will always be guided by the Constitution of this country and I would not do anything in collision with the Constitution,” reminds of a line in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet when Queen Gertrude says “the lady doth protest too much, methinks!”

One expects that a President shall abide by and uphold the Constitution and laws of our country at all times. Mr. Granger’s assertion devoid of substantial evidence that he, in fact, complied with the constitution over the last five years makes one wonder who is he trying to convince—himself? his supporters? All Guyanese?

We have all lived for the last 5 years under the Granger-led administration. One that will be described in Guyana’s history as one where constitutional rule was undermined repeatedly and where discrimination and “party paramountcy” were re-introduced by Granger in keeping with his self-proclaimed mentor, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. Most Guyanese who lived during the 1970s and 80s believed those days were over, but during the last 5 years the shadow of Burnham stealthily rose again.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Granger and his administration’s legacy will be one sullied with the greatest infringements of our constitution and laws, barefacedly and repeatedly, since we gained independence.

The path from May 15, 2015 to date is littered with violations of our constitution and laws by Mr. Granger himself and/or his Ministers, the latter many times with his knowledge. His aloof and many times indolent response to these infractions did not convey the impression that he wanted to halt these incursions on the democratic architecture of our nation.

For the purposes of this letter l will stick to the violations of the constitution and laws by Mr. Granger himself and omit for the purposes of brevity the scandalous corruption, incompetence and ineptitude of his administration at all levels.

The executive President of Guyana is both Head of State and Head of Government enshrined with much power and much responsibility under the Constitution. Ultimately as they say “the buck stops at his door.” Mr. Granger initiated and perpetrated many actions to undermine constitutional bodies and the constitution from early in his administration not just after the No Confidence Vote which defeated his government on December 21, 2018.

Executive Lawlessness

Things started to go wrong from one of the first acts of his government when he gave himself, the Prime Minister, 3 Vice Presidents, and 27 Ministers enormous increases of salary, allowances and benefits between 50 -100 % of what the former government ministers received. The fact that this was denied by Ministers and executed quietly until the Gazette Order became public bringing these increases into effect from July 1, 2015.

From there on came a series of acts that laid the basis for the whittling away of the constitutional and legal restraints on the President and the government:

  • Two of his three technocrat Ministers were thought to be unlawfully appointed to the National Assembly, and the matter was taken to the court in the last quarter of 2015. This challenge was solely directed to the President in his exercise of his powers to appoint Ministers. The then Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled on February 19, 2016, that Winston Felix, the Minister of Citizenship within the Ministry of the Presidency, and Keith Scott, Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, were not lawful members of the National Assembly and could not occupy seats in the House. The Government refused to comply and approached the court to have it quashed. It was not until five years later in January 2020 that the Court of Appeal re-affirmed the then Chief Justice 2016 ruling that Minister within the Social Protection Ministry, Keith Scott, and Citizenship Minister Winston Felix unlawfully occupied seats in Parliament in contravention of articles 60, 103(3), 105,160 (2) as defined by article 232. However, the two gentlemen continue to receive salaries, benefits, allowances and retain the status of Ministers, as do all the Ministers of the government, although elections ended 83 days ago.
  • Under his hand, in the last 5 years, leases and transported lands and property were repossessed. These actions demonstrated an abuse of power that led to several legal challenges. Several groups of farmers approached the court. Chief Justice (ag) Roxane Wiltshire-George S.C in early August 2017 ruled that the President’s revocation of the leases of the farmers in the Mahaica-Mahaicony/Abary Agricultural Authority was unconstitutional and null and void as the applicants’ leases constituted property under Article 142 of the Constitution.
  • In 2016 the Caribbean Court of Justice ordered the Government of Guyana to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the Trinidadian company, Dipcon Engineering. The company was only paid a small part of the amount owed, and the company returned to court. This dragged on for the next 4 years although the National Assembly in the 2019 Budget had included funds to pay the company as ordered by the court. This payment was not made and the President issued a presidential respite to save the Finance Minister from being jailed in 2019. However, it was only in 2020 that the Court quashed the executive order.
  • In sharp contrast was the treatment of the Surinamese company, RUDISA. In December 2015, the government settled to repay the entire amount of RUDISA’s USD$16M claim without any negotiations for a debt repayment schedule, despite the fact that the company owed millions of dollars in taxes to Guyana.
  • Despite the court not awarding costs to, and, in defiance of the court, in January 2016, the government settled with BK International (a locally- owned company and financier of the APNUAFC Coalition 2015 and 2020 election campaigns) for $1.17 B , the entire $10 MUSD for the contract, although BK Int’l only worked for 3 of the 5 years of the contract at substandard work for Haggs Bosche garbage disposal site.

Other infractions with abuse of power and lack of transparency and accountability continued:

  • In September 2015, Mr. Granger found that the National Stadium and the National Park unsuitable for the national events and Durban Park was identified for a new venue for the Jubilee celebrations. A special purpose company, Homestretch Development Inc., was established by the Ministry of the Presidency, with one Minister and 2 financiers of the APNUAFC Coalition, to raise funds and materials for the project. By 2017, $1.4B was spent on the Durban Park Development Project (DPk). Monies continue to spent on this Granger legacy project. The Auditor General has been unable to access critical documents with regards to the expenditure and accountability of this project.
  • In September 2016, the Ministry of the Presidency seized 6,000 solar panels purchased for the Hinterland Household Electrification Programme before the 2015 elections for the Amerindian households in the interior and re-allocated them for use at the Ministry of the Presidency and State House, residence of the President.
  • One of the most glaring examples of anti-national and unlawful acts was exposed in December 2017 by media that the Guyana Government had signed an agreement with Exxon and its partners since September 2016 for the newly found oil and natural gas resources for a pittance. This came after one year of consistent requests by the Parliamentary Opposition, the media and civil society bodies to know if there was an agreement and if there was one what did it contain. The President has remained aloof and silent on this “give away” of our patrimony with no inclination that he needed to offer the Guyanese people and explanation.
  • Also in December 2017, the media exposed that there was an USD 18 M signature bonus for the government from Exxon which it had earlier denied. The funds were deposited in a Bank of Guyana interest bearing foreign currency account instead of being deposited in the Consolidated Fund as required by the constitution.
  • The re-painting of State House ( heritage site) and the Ministry of the Presidency in the ruling party’s colour once again demonstrated the another violation of separation of state and party.

Constitutional bodies under duress

Between 2015- 2019, the government reduced the budgets of several constitutional bodies in violation of the Guyana Constitution and the 2015 amendment to Financial Management and Accountability Act (FMAA). This included the Guyana Elections Commission, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Office of the Auditor General, the Supreme Court and the Human Rights commissions.

Public Service Commission:

  • In early 2016, Granger through Minister Simona Broomes directed the Public Service Commission to cease all interviews and meetings until further notice. This was successfully challenged in the court and ruled unconstitutional and unlawful.
  • Despite this ruling, in September 2016, the President removed the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, a constitutional post holder. The court ruled that this act was unconstitutional.
  • The President proceeded to appoint Mr. Patrick Yarde, President of the Guyana Public Service Union, as Chairman of the PSC in violation of the court order and the constitution.
  • In the interim the Public Service Commission continued to make appointments to the public service, mainly of party sympathizers and activists, while others were dismissed. The new PSC was appointed in 2018.

Police Service Commission

  • In July 26, 2017, President Granger through the Minister of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon directed the Police Service Commission to halt all Police promotions until further directed by him.
  • The Police Service Commission expired in September 2017 and the President proceeded to announce a revamping of the Guyana Police Force and appointments to the leadership of the Force.
  • A legal action was filed challenging this directive of the President. The court found that the letter sent by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon to the PSC  directing it to withhold work on the annual Police promotions was in flagrant disregard of the Constitution and was unlawful, null, void and of no effect.  The court concluded that this was a blatant disregard of Article 226 of the Constitution which insulates the Police Service Commission from influence and directions of any other person or authority, especially political directions. The court was also forced to remind the government that only two years before Minister Simona Broomes had issued similar directions to a service commission and that a similar palpable violation of the Constitution was repeated.
  • In the interim the leadership of the Police force was revamped by the President of officers more to his liking and the demotion and side-lining of senior officers.

Judicial Service Commission

  • President Granger after a 9-month delay failed to appoint the nominations of judges by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in violation of the Guyana Constitution. This he finally did after several meanderings which included a number of persons being appointed more to his liking.
  • In 2016 on the retirement of the acting Chief Justice and acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, the President appointed a new Chief Justice acting and Chancellor acting. However, in order to appoint these two positions permanently, the President is required to adhere to the process specifically laid out in the Constitution. Subsequently, the President commenced a process to advertise for judges overseas and locally with a committee he appointed to make recommendations to him, one such member was retired Justice Patterson (who he would appoint unilaterally as Chairman of GECOM in October 2017). Between Jan- March 2018, he informed the Leader of the Opposition of his nominees. The Leader of the Opposition did not give his concurrence.
  • The Judicial Service Commission expired since September 10, 2017. The Parliamentary Commission of Appointments, which is headed by a Minister of government, and tasked with nominating members to all service commissions for the President to appoint, up to the time of the dissolution of the National Assembly on December 30, 2019, had made no nominations. Thus, there has been no Judicial Service Commission for almost 3 years.
  • In early 2018, the President appointed 2 temporary judges in violation of the Constitution which states that he can only appoint on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission.

Guyana Elections Commission

  • In July 2017, the High Court ruled on a case challenging the Government’s interpretation of article 161(2) with regards to the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) which the President insisted had to be a judge. The Chief Justice noted that being a judge “holds no special precedence” in accordance with art 161 (2) for the appointment of the Chairman.
  • In October 2017, President Granger unilaterally appointed the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission in violation of article 161 (2). The Leader of the Opposition had submitted a total of 18 names during the course of almost 9 months, all of whom were rejected.
  • Following retired Justice Patterson’s appointment as Chairman, the matter was filed in the High Court, the Appeals Court and all the way to the Caribbean Court of Appeal. On June 18, 2019, the CCJ ruled that “we have no choice but to conclude that the process that was followed in the appointment of Justice Patterson was flawed and in breach of Article 161(2)” ( 2019-CCJ -9 (AJ) .

The judiciary being tested

  • In December 2017, the PPP/C filed a High Court Action to compel the Attorney General to commence the Judicial Review Act 2010. In May 2018, the Court ordered by way of a mandamus that the AG must bring the Judicial Review Act 2010 into force by July 31, 2018. The order was made absolute by the Chief Justice. This is a critical piece of legislation that hold those in public office accountable.

On December 21, 2018 the successful passage of the No Confidence Motion defeated the Granger-led government. Article 106 (6) and (7) was invoked and elections were due to be held within 3 months, by March 21, 2019.

From January 3, 2019 to April 2019, the recourse to the local courts and our apex court, the CCJ, has been well documented.

  • The government spent millions to bring foreign lawyers to argue in the High Court and later the Caribbean Court of Justice that the majority of 65 Members of the National Assembly is 34, and not 33. Guyana was made the laughing stock of the Caribbean. The CCJ had ruled that “Thirty-three votes constitute a majority of the 65 member National Assembly;….Upon the passage of this motion of no confidence in the Government, the clear provisions of Article 106 immediately became engaged..”
  • Most critical was the CCJ ruling on June 18th 2019 and orders of July 12, 2019 that stated “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.”(2019-CCJ-14 AJ)
  • The CCJ further ordered that “By convention, the government is expected to behave during this interim period as a caretaker and so restrain the exercise of its legal authority. It is this caretaker or interim role that explains the three month deadline, in the first instance, that the Article lays down, in principle, for the holding of the fresh elections.”
  • These orders were honoured in the breach as elections were not held until March 2, 2020 and the Granger-led government continued with “business as usual”. The “Ministerial plenary of all Ministers” took the place of Cabinet, performing the duties of Cabinet and awarding multi-million dollar contracts, sale of lands, and resources, appointments on boards etc., with no legal or constitutional authority.
  • In August 2019, the Chief Justice (ag) ruled in relation to the interpretation of the Constitution with regards to the issue of residency and removal of names from the National Register of Registrants and the House-to-House registration exercise for the purpose of constructing a new voters list. The High Court and the Court of Appeal found that the scrapping of the NRR was unlawful and that there was no residency requirement, further a person registered to vote could not be removed unless in keeping with the constitutional provisions of art 159.

Noteworthy is that the issue of residency and removal of persons who have deceased are being regurgitated by Mr. Granger’s own party, PNC and the APNU+AFC, in the recount of the votes of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections as if there was no legal interpretation. This is now the basis of allegations without evidence by his party that the elections had many irregularities and is not credible. Yet on March 13th, with discredited declarations -discredited by the international observer missions of the Commonwealth, the European Union, the OAS, the CARICOM, all local observers and the nine opposition parties—Mr. Granger and his party said they had won the elections and were preparing for his swearing in.

  • On March 17, 2020, a case was brought by a candidate of the APNU+AFC , the party headed by Mr. Granger, to stop the recount of the March 2, 2020 elections, which he had agreed to in an Aide Memoir with CARICOM and the Leader of the Opposition. The High Court and Court of Appeal ruled against this attempt to stop the recount.

I believe that Chris Ram in a Letter to the Editor on Feb 27, 2020 summed it up best when he wrote:-

“In fact, …from the first year of his election as President, Granger set about violating his Oath, bending the Constitution to his personal, previously unsuspected agenda. It was only the alertness of a few lawyers and the astuteness of the Courts that the Constitution and the rule of law have not so far been rendered completely meaningless. …

The cases number more than three dozen. ….that number has no parallel in Guyana or indeed in any country of the Caribbean, of constitutional violations by an executive or head of state. ….”

In concluding, Mr. Granger’s assertions that he has always abided by the constitution provides little comfort to Guyanese. After the last 5 years how can we be blamed?

Regrettably Mr. Granger has placed parliamentary democracy and rule of law in jeopardy as no President of Guyana since the 1980s.

I appeal to Mr Granger to concede defeat in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections and make an honourable retreat for the sake of country and our people.