What constitution is being disobeyed?

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HARDLY a day passes without the opposition and its cheerleaders haranguing the society with messages of doom regarding the rule of law. It seems as if every opposition member and detractor of the government has become a constitutionalist. The newspapers and airwaves are inundated with tales and narratives from these new-found experts on the constitution. They accuse the government of non-compliance with the dictates of the constitution by not resigning and calling elections forthwith. But we ask—what constitution is being disobeyed? What constitutional crisis?

If one were not familiar with Guyana’s politics, one would get the impression that Guyana is in a constitutional crisis. But nothing could be further from the truth—there is no constitutional crisis in this country. What obtains is a concerted effort on the part of the opposition and its cohorts to create hysteria as part of their effort to force premature general and regional elections with a voters’ list that is heavily tainted. They have obviously decided that painting the country in unflattering terms would benefit their political fortunes.
This publication takes a very dim view of such behaviour from a party that has set itself out as the next government. We hold the position that there must be a point where partisan politics stop and commitment to the country begins. While we accept that parties will vie for power and in the process push the envelope to the brink, we feel that political commonsense and morality must find a central place in the scheme of things.

The PPP knows full well that the government is still in place because of a train of lawful developments since December 2019. After disagreement on whether the no-confidence motion (NCM) of December 21 was properly passed, the government side resorted to the judicial branch to settle the matter. They did so under the universally accepted principle of Judicial Review, which provides for the challenge of the actions of the Executive and Legislative branches of government. We are certain that had the PPP been in the position of the government, it would have taken advantage of Judicial Review.

The truth is that the initial challenge of the NCM was a directive by the Speaker of the National Assembly who advised that the matter be sent to the courts for a full and final view. Since then the challenge has triggered a series of further challenges and counter challenges. As we write this editorial, there is a challenge to part of the most recent ruling by the chief justice. In fact, the refusal by the PPP to cooperate with the government as recommended by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has been the reason for the current round of court challenges.

The irony is that it is the PPP which is guilty of frustrating the constitutional imperatives. The CCJ has made it clear that the solution to the political impasse lies in political consensus by the major actors—the PPP and the APNU+AFC Coalition in conjunction with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). This was in clear response to the PPP’s demand that the CCJ impose a political solution by naming a date for election. The court emphatically refused the demand by citing the doctrine of Separation of Powers. The matter would have ended there had the PPP got together with the coalition in consultation with GECOM. As is well known, their allies moved to the court to challenge the legality of house-to-house registration initiated by GECOM in its quest to create a credible voters list, a prerequisite for free and fair elections.

The PPP wants a strict constitutional solution to a political problem. It creates a constitutional crisis and then yells at the court to solve the fictitious problem. It then hollers at the government for not going along with the hoax. The PPP and its allies take a very narrow view of constitutional supremacy. As far as they are concerned, the only aspect of the constitution that matters is Article 106-6. They silence the other relevant aspects of the constitution in pursuit of their narrow pursuit of power. But Article 6-6 is not meant to be a stand-alone article—it must be read along with Article 6-7.

The PPP wants to push crooked elections down the country’s throat to satisfy its narrow and autonomous reading of Article 6-6. This must not be allowed—credible elections are also a sacrosanct constitutional right. This is the very PPP, as Elder Eusi Kwayana and others have pointed out, that has a history of disdain for the constitution. As recent as 2015, the PPP defied settled constitutional norms when faced with a NCM—it did not even allow a debate of the motion. We urge citizens across the political divide to ignore this rhetoric of constitutional disobedience from the PPP. The government is constitutionally in place. Guyana is not a pariah state.