May 11, 2019  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon

Here is an extract from my column, “The constitutional power of the president and the Opposition Leader “of Friday, October 19, 2018. “…It reduces

the importance of the list, the role of the Opposition Leader in the selection of the GECOM chairman, and the consensus model in the constitution.
“Based on the ruling of the Court of Appeal, the Carter-Price formula did not really have the legal substance to create a consensus model. The unanimous decision of the court that the president has the right to appoint a chairman of his own choice then means that since 1990 when the Carter-Price formula was adopted and then put into the constitution, it was merely a blueprint that the president can accept if he wants to.”
One of the judges of the CCJ, Justice Saunders listening to arguments in the GECOM chairman case told the Guyana Government’s lawyers, “I’m getting the impression from you that the President can simply appoint whom he wishes. That was what was in the previous constitution and there was a whole Herdmanston Accord and deliberations that said ‘we don’t want that anymore’ but you still seem to be stuck on what was there before.”
I believe this is a crucial point that Guyana’s Court of Appeal overlooked. Once the constitution was amended to incorporate the Carter/Price framework, it meant that Guyana’s legislators wanted a GECOM chairman that followed a consensus pathway.
Justice Wit concurred with Justice Sanders. He told the Government of Guyana’s attorneys that since the president can unilaterally appoint a chairman then nothing has changed. He intoned, “I have difficulty accepting that that could be the proper interpretation.”
A certain query by Justice Saunders must be causing emotional stress among APNU+AFC leaders. He noted that the president should have discussed why his rejections were not acceptable.
This is how he put it; “How do we know which person he found to be unacceptable and on what basis he found them not to be unacceptable?”
It must be recalled that when the High Court with the Chief Justice first heard the case, she took the position that President Granger should state his reasons why he found the nominees of the Opposition Leader ineligible.
I repeat my opinion here contained in previous articles. I believe President Granger rejected every person on the three lists of the Opposition Leader because he had his choice waiting. He had Justice Patterson in mind.
On the other hand, Bharrat Jagdeo baited the president so that Granger could act unilaterally then claim that the APNU+AFC government is undemocratic and wants to tamper with the forthcoming national elections.
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What Jagdeo did was to insert certain implausible names on each of the three lists so Granger would react negatively. The plot was to devastate the AFC, not the PNC, since Jagdeo knew Indians would not vote for the PNC and he, Jagdeo needed those Indian votes that went in 2015 to the AFC. It worked for Jagdeo.
The AFC supported Granger’s unilateral action and that was one of the nails driven in the AFC’s coffin.
If there were headaches in the Gecom Chairman litigation, there were more stress and strain in the no-confidence matter. Lawyers for the state in Guyana informed the CCJ that an MP cannot vote against his own party and that the constitution does not allow for this. But two judges were not persuaded.
Justice Saunders then wondered what the value was of having MPS vote and given such restrictions if the situation is not a charade. Justice Saunders also wondered where that leaves the question of the freedom of conscience of parliamentarians.
Justice Wit enquired; “Is Parliament then a rubber stamp…What is left of the separation of powers? This ties parliament completely to the executive.”
All of this makes Guyana look foolish in the eyes of the world. If the lawyers for the state contend that in Guyana parliamentarians cannot vote against their own party, then why didn’t the House Speaker disallow the tabling of a no-confidence motion since it would have been a waste of time to have the House spend an entire day debating a motion that cannot pass?
Why wasn’t the no-confidence article in the constitution not removed since House members cannot go against their own party?
I particularly like the remark of Justice Sanders about freedom of conscience. I asserted in one of my columns when there was a nasty campaign against Charrandass about taking a bribe to vote, that such debates damage the psychology of Guyana’s youths because it devalues for the role of conscience in humans, a value that be instilled in our youths.