EXPECTATIONS are high and low, depending on one’s perspective, of the ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in the matter of its jurisdiction, in Eslyn David V Chief Elections Officer et al case. I have not been particularly sufficiently schooled in the field of law to make certain definitive comments about what the CCJ should or should not do; I must grudgingly leave that to legal scholars, some of whom have already postulated and expounded on various aspects of the Constitution, certain agreements, and the powers and role of the CCJ. For me, the word “Justice” is the most critical and operative word. Understanding our Constitution, here, in Guyana, and local and Caribbean political cultures, I can only hope that the CCJ would be strictly legal in its judgement and decision on Wednesday of this week.
Of particular concern to me is what happens after the ruling by the CCJ; how do we go forward. Over the last four months, Guyanese have been waiting for the conclusion of the electoral process, for a final, credible count, the declaration of a President, and the installation of a government. There have been many hurdles along the way, resulting in a protracted delay of the final outcome. We know what we know.
In addition, there have been many voices, not of truth but of personal and individual opinions, saying many things. It must be admitted that, in some cases, not all, those utterances amounted to interference in our internal national political and electoral affairs because, some of those, who spoke, did so with worrying precipitation over the process; in that sense those utterances were inappropriate and improper. Perhaps, it was not the intention of some of those who spoke about the process, not yet complete, to interfere, (they just wanted to help) but, in form and substance, those utterances constituted a mark too far into the internal political affairs of Guyana. Some of those who got involved attempted to recalibrate, it would appear, our internal political and electoral systems to conform to their personal beliefs and prejudices. Thinking about it, I would only note that, this has not been the practice of our Presidents of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana; that position of non-interference by our Presidents, I believe, should have been reciprocated by leaders even in CARICOM, because it is good for democracy and for the community.
I would also note that, the character of such comments has the potential to influence, in a direct way, the on-going electoral process in Guyana. This can seriously undermine democracy in our country. More fundamentally, comments and remarks, which were made, and are being made, while the process is still in progress, in essence, prevent local political actors and other stakeholders from coming to the table to work on possible solutions to end what is now an unprecedented major political challenge. Certain comments made by outsiders, even some heads of governments, and heads of missions, who do not understand the nuances of the local situation, I dare say, can and do have the effect of emboldening different sides to dig in and remain entrenched in their positions, rather than prodding them along towards necessary and important compromises.
Applying a commonsense approach, it seems to me that at the end of the day, only a Guyanese solution can overcome this new and unprecedented political challenge, nothing else. It is very clear to me that the solution has to be endogenous; it has to be. It must come from within the local body politic, not outside. Our political leaders, political actors (state and non-state) and civil society must, at some stage of this process, sit together in a mature and purposeful manner, to talk and listen to each other; to make good compromises; and develop a workable and practical plan to move Guyana forward.
Convinced about the nature of the solution that is needed, I must confess, that as a Guyanese, I have placed no store at all on the highly anticipated ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice. That ruling by and of itself, is grossly inadequate and insufficient, in theory and practice, to bring an end to our local extant political problem, immediately, or even in the short term and/or long term. Our unique political history has shown that we are a resilient people; what we survived as a people, as a nation, would have long ago destroyed many others. More, our Constitution, Parliament, the courts and democratic institutions have combined to provide a strong and enduring national architecture that allows us to build an independent and prosperous nation. We must use it to secure the integrity of our nation’s interest and the advancement of all Guyanese.
In recent times, President David Granger posited the view that there must be a new political model that is inclusionary, in nature and scope. It is the right thing to say and to do, particularly in circumstances where there are certain real ethnic fears and deep almost intractable racial divisions in our country. In fact, I do believe it is the only real and practicable endogenous solution available to us now. As a nation, we can win, we have to win, because failure is not an option. So, I wait with bated breath, fully aware of an urgent and pressing need for a solution beyond the Caribbean Court of Justice.