Statement by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on CCJ ruling

first_imgIt behooves me to thank all of the people, including the civic minded Guyanese, such as Mr. Christopher Ram, who were involved the appeals that were advanced at the level of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). I am not thanking them because they are members of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) or because they coordinated their positions with us. I am thanking them because they were willing to step forward and address a serious issue for all Guyanese – the issue of the constitutionality of our government, the behaviour of the APNU+AFC Coalition Government in office and, primarily, the rule of law.Today there is no room for gloating, nor is there room for triumphalism. It is time for the country to move on together. I had said, when the no-confidence motion was passed on December 21, 2018, that we have to work together to move the country forward. Today I want to reiterate this message.Today the call is for the APNU+AFC Coalition Government to respect the constitution and hold General and Regional Elections as early as possible.RULING ON VALIDITY OF NO-CONFIDENCE MOTIONThe CCJ has declared a victory for constitutional rule in Guyana.I want to quote from the press release issue by the CCJ. It said: “In the judgment delivered today, the CCJ declared that the motion of no confidence in the Government is valid. Guyana’s Constitution states that the Cabinet, including the President, is required to resign if the Government is defeated by the majority vote of all the elected members of the National Assembly ‘on a vote of confidence’.”The CCJ ruling was clear on several key issues:1. The no-confidence motion was validly passed;2. The majority needed for the passage of the vote on the no-confidence motion was 33 votes, not 34 as the Coalition Government claimed;3. The vote of former Parliamentarian, Charandass Persaud, was valid and Mr. Persaud was not “required to vote against the motion of no confidence along with other members” of the APNU+AFC Coalition Government;4. There was nothing to prevent the tabling of a no-confidence motion by any member of the National Assembly, including myself, as Opposition Leader; and5. Despite the Speaker of the Assembly declaring that the motion had been validly passed, the Government neither resigned nor announced impending elections.The latter point is important for us because what it does is show clearly that we had an illegal government in office, from March 21, 2019 – when the three month deadline for General and Regional Elections, after the December 21, 2018, vote passed. Article 106 (7) was triggered when the no-confidence motion was validly passed.Article 106 (7) states that: “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”The Constitution is clear.The purpose of the Government remaining in office, after the passage of a no-confidence motion, was also clear in the Explanatory Memorandum, on Page 15, of Bill 14 of 2000 – Constitution (Amendment). This Bill that introduced Article 106 (7) – said: “Clause 5 alters Article 106 to provide for the resignation of Cabinet and the President following the defeat of the Government in the National Assembly on a vote of confidence. Although defeated the Government shall remain in office FOR THE PURPOSE OF HOLDING AN ELECTION.”I had warned that many things were being done by this Coalition Government prematurely. I had said that if the CCJ ruled, in the manner it did, to uphold the validity of the no- confidence motion, the Coalition Government would be illegal from March 21, 2019.However, the Government continued with its ‘business as usual’ disposition – they returned to the National Assembly to approve another $8B in spending for 2019; they passed the Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill, as well as other legislation; they have awarded billions in contracts; they have given out thousands of acres of land to their cronies; they are privatizing assets that belong to the Guyanese people without any tender process; and they are spending$1.5B on outreaches. All of this is being done in the period that they are illegally holding office. We will decide on how these matters are addressed, based on advice that will be solicited. I will speak more on this matter at a later date.From today onwards, anything outside staying in office for the purpose of holding Elections will be declared illegal by a PPP/C government – any contract, any transfer of lands, any privatization of state assets, any move to reconvene Parliament, any act that has nothing to do with holding Elections will be illegal. Guyanese will deal with an illegal Government at their own risk. It is not business as usual. Every time I met President Granger, he would say the matter is in Court. Today the final Court has spoken and we will be intolerant about anything that has nothing to do with holding Elections.I want to say to our supporters and all Guyana. We will continue to act responsibly, abide by the rule of law.Today, faith has been restored in the judicial system. When the decision was made to join the CCJ we argued that we needed an external review to ensure insulation from political influence. Had we not had this external review then the no-confidence motion would have failed based on the decision of the Court of Appeal.Last Friday (June 14, 2019), I had said that should we win today, it would be a sprint to elections and if we did not it would be a middle distance run. I said also that whatever the outcome we have to work to rescue Guyana from this corrupt, incompetent cabal that only works for itself. I had also said that we would hit the road if we had a decision in favour of the PPP/C to force the Coalition Government to hold early elections. You will see us speak very little on this matter until the consequential orders are given by the CCJ on Monday (June 24, 2019). We want to respect the decision of the Court. This is our posture.We hope the international community will take a strong position on this matter now that the final Court has spoken. To the Diplomatic Corps, I want to say that the matter is resolved definitively.In the meantime, we have dusted off our plans and the Party goes into full election mode beginning tomorrow. We will accelerate work at the party level.RULING ON APPOINTMENT OF GECOM CHAIRMANOn the challenge to the unilateral appointment of the GECOM Chairman, James Patterson,the CCJ was also very clear. In their press release, the CCJ said: “The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today ruled that the process through which Reverend Justice (Retired) James Patterson was appointed Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by His Excellency, Brigadier David Granger, President of Guyana was flawed and in breach of Guyana’s Constitution.”We always argued that the President breached the Constitution in making this appointment. For over a year now we have had to live with his unilateral decision and all the problems caused by the partisan actions taken by Patterson at GECOM. Today the CCJ was clear. The appointment of Patterson was illegal and invalid.This means President Granger cannot act in a manner that is above the Constitution. He cannot act with impunity. There is a Constitution and he must respect the Constitution. We have seen that when it comes to these matters he places himself above the Constitution. However, he derives his power from the Constitution. Today this is an important ruling for us. It is about how Presidents act in Guyana.On this matter, we have to return to the CCJ. The Court has asked that the two sides come together to arrive at a consensus position on the way forward. At this point arriving at a consensus position is something that will be worked out by the lawyers. We will engage at the legal level. If we do not have consensus, the Court will rule. At this time I will not speak about what our positions are. I want to assure Guyana that we are being reasonable, but we will not give in to positions that will run counter to ensuring that there is full respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.We hope that the staff at GECOM, as well as the GECOM Commissioners, take note of the decision and act accordingly by starting preparations for very early Elections.I have seen that President Granger is talking about a date for Elections in November, as well as House-to-House registration. October, nor November 2019 will not fly with us.The President clearly lives in a bubble. He is divorced from the reality of constitutional rule. He has to be severely diminished in capacity to argue as if he has full legal authority to declare when elections are held. If it is a normal situation, the President is empowered, within the five-year term in office to call elections at any time – any time within the five years. It is at his discretion. When you have a valid no-confidence motion, Articles 106 (6) and 106 (7) take away that discretion. The powers that the President has in a normal situation is not the same in the current situation. The Election timeline is guided by Constitution. The President has to follow the law.Today, we saw the use of a national address by the President to repeat old, worn out promises, and to mislead Guyanese people on the need for House-to-House registration. His claim that persons who turned 18-years-old are not included in the National Register of Registrants, from which the Official List of Electors is complied, is false. With the continuous registration process, persons are registered from the age of 14 and the last such process was conducted in July 2018. His claims that the current List of Electors is “corrupted” and “may hold as many as 200,000 incorrect entries” are false. This is the same list that was used for the November 2018 Local Government Elections without complaint from any political Party, including the one headed by the President. It is unfortunate that the President would descend to such levels.The President is using GECOM and the Voters’ List as excuses to desperately hang on to office, hoping his Government can spend taxpayers’ money to improve its political fortunes– all while the country is drifting.We think that Elections could be held within maximum three months. The CCJ has indicated that the consensus should be a principled and practical position – a principled positon would be that Elections are held tomorrow, a practical position is two to three months.I will address these matters further at my next press conference.last_img read more