A court challenge to presidential term limits has no merit, Head of the 2000 Constitution Reform Commission, Ralph Ramkarran says.
Cedric Richardson, through his lawyers Shaun Allicock and Emily Dodson, has named Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Speaker Raphael Trotman as respondents in the action against the limit of two presidential terms. The two have been given eight days to file a response or challenge the action.
Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek, Ramkarran said: “It is not known what arguments the lawyers have in mind, but on the surface and at first glance the case has no merit whatsoever. The only constitutional right an elector has is to vote. There is no right to vote for a specific person. If the two-term limit is to be challenged, it is Dr [Bharrat] Jagdeo who must do so. And Article 90 of the Constitution, which was amended to provide for the two-term limit, is amendable by a two-thirds majority. A referendum is not required. What legal or intellectual circumlocution …is going to be deployed to get around the plain language of the constitution is anyone’s guess”.
Since the announcement of the case, Jagdeo has said he is not interested in a third term. He has said this before.
Ramkarran, who was a member of the ruling PPP for nearly 50 years before quitting two years ago, said “The case mentions Dr Jagdeo. It would normally be assumed by all rational people that the applicant and the lawyers would not have gone to all the trouble of launching legal proceedings before speaking to Dr Jagdeo. Whether they or their sponsors did or did not – and the latter proposition would strain the credulity of right thinking persons – now that he has declared his disinterest, and with the blast of hellfire from the PPP, invoked directly from ‘Hades,’ it would be interesting to see whether they would withdraw the proceedings.”
Following Jagdeo’s statement, the ruling PPP had also condemned the legal challenge to the presidential term limits. In a statement on Thursday, it said “Clearly, this new development is an attempt to throw a spanner in the works. The sponsors of the legal challenge appear to have a hidden agenda in the real sense of the term other than invoking or blocking the boogie of a `third term’ for Bharrat Jagdeo.
“The interest of those behind the challenge lies in the darkest and deepest crevices of a democracy comparable to the galleries of Hades.”
Ramkarran in his column yesterday said that the promotion of Jagdeo’s name is a “slap in the face of President Ramotar and can potentially affect his electoral prospects. The message that President Ramotar is being challenged from within, and that there are divisions within the party, will weaken him and create great uncertainty among PPP supporters. Who in the end will be the presidential candidate, they may now ask, if the case is not withdrawn?”
Ramkarran, a former two-term Speaker of the National Assembly said that Jagdeo is well aware that a third presidential term for him is a topical issue.
“He is also well aware that there is no longer anyone in the leadership of the PPP who will or can resist any move by him to seek a third term, having eliminated from the PPP leadership all those who have stood up to him. However, the one condition is that the occupant must be outgoing with no obvious successor.
“The question now is: Does the applicant in the case and his principals believe that a Ramotar candidacy will lose the elections? And is this an effort to remove the legal obstacle so that President Ramotar can be removed and substituted by Dr Jagdeo?”, Ramkarran asked.