Meet the GNCPP – Guyana’s civil society forum

The elections, the CCJ and the Constitution

Today, the Guyana National Council on Public Policy (GNCPP) wishes to launch its print media initiative to introduce itself to the Guyanese (reading) public.
This is merely our initial introduction.  A full profile with the GNCPP mission, objectives, personnel and programmes will take a few pages.  That, naturally, will evolve in the columns and features to come.  We thank Guyana Publication Incorporated for this opportunity.

Dr Philip M. H. Thomas
Dr Philip M. H. Thomas

The GNCPP is still a new civil society non-government organisation (NGO)that first announced its existence in mid-2011.
In two television panel discussions, along with press releases – for some unfathomable reason NCN and two other government-friendly media houses declined the paid programmes – the GNCPP explained that amongst its objectives, it has set itself the clothing of a national persona, quite fundamental but scholarly and distinctive, which will vigorously promote the participation of civil society in every aspect of national life and development.  It also pledges to be the most active civil society leader, which evolves, fashions, articulates and manages the real and urgent interests of the national constituency.  It is to be the demand side as opposed to the supply side of the Civil/Political System, even as politicians and government are supposed to represent the “Public Service/Supply-SIDE of the Sovereign State.”
Headed by International Corporate Consultant, Dr. Philip M. H. Thomas, the NGO intends to be a Public Policy Think Tank Enterprise, planning to be an independent, non-political entity of fertile minds “occupying and utilizing the CIVIL SOCIETY space between individual Guyanese and the Government.”
The GNCPP has been relatively silent, but not inactive, during the months since its introduction to the Guyanese public.  There are good reasons for this quiet interregnum.  Expert private surveys and assessments are being done to identify personnel, audiences, needs and the best approaches and remedies upon which to base and validate a powerful; programme of activities planned to mirror and parallel governmental structures in civil society modes.
Secondly, the GNCPP was engaged in ongoing litigation, which attracted the attention of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).  Leave to appeal matters, including GECOM’s Constitutional and fiduciary obligations, are being litigated in keeping with the GNCPP’s determination to seek constitutional, political and judicial reform of this beloved Guyanese society.  In keeping with legal and judicial decorum, the Forum thought that it was professionally courteous and tactical to be quiet and low profile for that period.
That phase of the GNCPP’s litigation process is now concluded in that it has obliged the Forum to re-embark on the CCJ – recommended approach to continue the struggle – both justifiable and justiciable — to seek Electoral, Constitutional and judicial reform, together with liberation for the Guyanese people.
So as we promise to develop and present our Civil Society representational bona fides and Think-Tank persona in the coming weeks, we now allow a brief, summarised peek into the litigation, which attracted the attention and deliberation of the CCJ in Port-of-Spain just recently.

The CCJ rulinbg, the promising future
Founder – Chairman of the GNCPP, Dr. Philip Mozart Thomas, a Guyanese International Consultant and Corporate Attorney of considerable repute, filed a Motion in the form of an Election Process Proceeding Petition, seeking injunctive, interlocutory relief from the High Court of Guyana to order and instruct GECOM to uphold and abide by its Constitutional, fiduciary duties, obligations and responsibilities in respect of the fundamental and civil rights guaranteed under, but not limited, specifically to Article 146 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.  This was a grand legal effort and strategy to persuade GECOM to ensure that it conducted the (2011) General Elections without interference and meddling from the political/governmental system, and to ensure that all those that are participating in the elections process receive equal access to all available media to present their policies and programmes to the Guyanese society.
After various GNCPP’s submissions and the non-appearance of some defendants, who were obviously concerned that the November elections were likely to be affected, both In-chambers of High Court and Full Court of the High Court ruled that they had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Here the GNCPP and its Affiliate – Plaintiffs were baffled by the “no jurisdiction” ruling, with respect to this crucial human – rights-electoral issues having to do with the principle reason of why the elections are held, together with the will and future of the citizens of Guyana.  These were and are fundamental and Constitutional issues even beyond elections, hence their appeal to the Court of Appeal (COA).
On Tuesday (June 26, 2012), during the course of giving an oral ruling, and while stating that the Applicants/Appellants “might have had a good case,” Chancellor Justice Carl Singh (ag) and his two colleagues, Justices Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Rishi Persaud also refused the Application citing gross “procedural blunders” with respect to the filing of the Special Leave to Appeal Application to Guyana’s Highest Court.
Whereupon Dr. Thomas was of the view that since the issues of the gist of the litigation concerned the fundamental rights of all of Guyana’s citizens – and not merely the electoral considerations, which initiated the action – the group sought recourse to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for another judicial opinion.  Thomas contended that representatives of Civil-Society – especially those not co-opted or compromised by local intimidatory forces – had to make their voices heard, in every legitimate and legal manner possible.

The CCJ: dismissal and advice
The CCJ heard the GNCPP’s Appeal on February 6, 2013.  That Court comprised the Learned Justice, Honourable Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders (President), Honourable Justice Jacob Wit and Honourable Justice Winston Anderson.
Representing the Appellants/Applicants were Attorneys Stanley I. Marcus, S.C., Jonas M. F. Coddett, Adrian Thompson and Attorney Appellant/Applicant #4, Dr. Philip H. M. Thomas.  Attorneys Ashton Chase S. C., and Sase Gunraj represented three of the Defendants/Respondents.
The CCJ, in dismissing the “Special Leave to Appeal the Intended Appellants/Applicants to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal of Guyana delivered on the 26th day of May 2012… it was further ordered therefore” that “the Court was not of the view that Special Leave should be given in the matter”.  The application was therefore dismissed.

In doing so, however, the Honourable Court was moved to declare and advise the following, as regards the (very) nature of an application to hear, for example, a Pre-elections Process Proceedings Petition “BEFORE the (2011) Elections:  “There is a very fundamental point in principle as to whether the person who is complaining about election issues – things related to an election – should wait until AFTER elections and move the Election Court by Article 153…”
The question is whether that is so or not, whether it is appropriate for a court to hear an Election Petition and to give relief on what they sought in such a petition is an interesting Constitutional legal issue.  But because it has arisen in this context in the course of an application for injunctions against the respondents relating to the 2011 elections and since those elections have already been held then we do not think that it is a useful thing for you to be given leave to appeal to us; that application for an injunction has been spent.
The question as to whether a pre-election petition can or cannot be brought is still a live issue and it may well be that the applicants may wish to whether by amending the Summons before the Chief Justice or by way of bringing fresh action may wish to re-engage the High Court on that question.
In order words, the GNCPP and its Co-Applicants/ Appellants were pointed in a particular direction in terms of the legal struggle to exact justice on behalf of the country’s electors and the nation.
GNCPP urges civil society, especially, to be interested and informed as, its structured programme for Constitutional, Electoral and Legal Reform is sustained.  Til next time…

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