After serving for nearly 12 years as the country’s executive president, President Bharrat Jagdeo says that there are no “major” changes he would recommend to the post since the powers currently afforded allow whoever holds the position to be effective in office.
“There are things I think I would like to see maybe I’ll talk to [PPP/C presidential candidate] Donald [Ramotar] about them. But I don’t see anything major because what we’ve done… we did the major thing, which was to limit people who sit in this job unlike any country in the Caribbean,” Jagdeo said on Friday during a news conference at his office.
“There are some powers, if you check any president in the world…you will see that the president has those powers largely because of the need to function in the office. So I wouldn’t advocate changing those for a new president because he has to be able to function effectively,” Jagdeo continued. The President noted that there were some things that some “small groups” complain about but he said they failed to make comparisons with other countries. “If you compare Guyana with other countries, you’ll see in spite of our history of an executive presidency with strong powers, how far we have come in terms of changing the office. We have come a far way,” the President said, adding that he would not want to “diminish the tools” available to the president.
Pressed on the issue of immunity from prosecution, Jagdeo said that he was not in favour of these being removed even after the person would have demitted office. “I think the President has to function… — [and] in an extremely litigious society like the one we have more litigations than probably… on per capita basis than any country in the world— you can’t get the President of the country being caught up every day in frivolous litigations because it distracts him from his core function and that is why some of the immunities are there, and it is not here in Guyana alone… in most countries,” the President said.
In April, PPP/C presidential candidate Ramotar, during a press conference, said that should he assume office, he would not make any sweeping changes to the country’s constitution but said he may seek advice on altering the immunity from prosecution afforded to presidents.
Meanwhile, when asked about what he planned to do when he demits office, Jagdeo said he was still to decide. “I’m yet to determine what I would do. I saw a lot of debate going on about what I can do and what I shouldn’t do,” he said. Questioned about involvement in local politics, Jagdeo’s response was similar “I’m yet to determine how much involvement I’ll have in politics. I’m yet to determine a lot of things. I’m playing it light…I’m just taking it day after day”.
During an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Ramotar had said that he was open to having Jagdeo serve in his cabinet as a minister should he become president but said that this had not been discussed at the party.
“I don’t know if he would want to. I mean being President and then coming to join the cabinet…it might be something that he would probably have to consider. I haven’t thought about it as yet,” Ramotar told Stabroek News when questioned on the matter back in April.
“We haven’t discussed that as yet, but of course President Jagdeo has accumulated an enormous amount of experience. I think his worst critics would have to admit that over the last five years, from 2006 to now, our country has done quite a lot. It has really surged forward. And I… think that once President Jagdeo is available, I think it’s a resource we should use in this country… what role or what position he will play that is still to be discussed and hammered out,” Ramotar said.