Big electoral blow
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Former PPP Executive Member, Ralph Ramkarran
Former PPP Executive Member, Ralph Ramkarran

— Ramkarran says CCJ ruling will affect PPP at 2020 polls

FORMER House Speaker and PPP executive member, Ralph Ramkarran said the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice last week has dealt a major electoral blow to the PPP and hailed the decision as a monumental victory for Guyanese.

Writing in his column “Conversation Tree”, Ramkarran said during the lifetimes of Cheddi Jagan and Janet Jagan, the PPP twice, unanimously, decided to support a two-term presidential limit.

He noted that a PPP delegation in 1995/6 proposed to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Reform that the Constitution should be amended to provide for a two-term presidential limit.

In 1999/2000, the same representation was made by the PPP to the Constitution Reform Commission. These public proposals reflected those unanimous decisions.

Additionally, Ramkarran said during the Ramotar presidency, the then Attorney General Anil Nandlall opposed the application by Richardson to deem as unconstitutional the amendment to the Constitution that limited the presidential terms to two.

Before Mr. Ramotar became president, he had publicly opposed the call for scrapping the two-term limit. He has welcomed the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Ramkarran also mentioned that former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, all speaking for the PPP, had at one time or another, publicly expressed support for the two-term presidential limit.

Jagdeo had even expressed a lack of interest in a third term. However, Ramkarran observed that after the PPP lost the elections in 2015, and while the Richardson case was making its way through the Guyana Court of Appeal and the CCJ, the PPP and its spokespersons fell silent on the issue of presidential term limits.

The decision last Tuesday by the CCJ upheld the appeal of the Attorney General of Guyana. The court ruled that the constitutional amendment limiting presidential term limits to two terms did not violate the Constitution. It has delivered to Guyana an historic dose of democracy and justice.

The argument on behalf of Richardson was that the amendment limited the right of Guyanese to choose who they want to be the President. By doing so, the amendment adversely affected or diluted and, in effect, amended articles 1 and 9 which provided for Guyana’s “democracy” and “sovereignty”.

Since articles 1 and 9 require a referendum to amend them, the amendment limiting presidential terms to two, which was passed in the National Assembly by a two-thirds majority, was unconstitutional.

The CCJ rejected the argument and held that articles 1 and 9 were not violated by the amendment limiting presidential terms to two and that a referendum was not necessary. The court pointed to the extensive consultations held by the Constitution Reform Commission in 1999-2000, which supported the two-term limit by a 12 to 4 vote, and to the unanimous support of the amendment by the National Assembly.

“The decision was a monumental victory for Guyana’s democracy, from whose people the horrifying threat of a potential life presidency has been lifted. At the same time the PPP has suffered a major electoral blow as its best known, most popular and most experienced leader will not be able to lead it as a candidate at the 2020 elections,” Ramkarran wrote.

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