We must recommit to the separation of powers

Dear Editor,

In 2017, hardly a day goes by when we are not treated to another variant of how the Gecom Chairman should be appointed in the daily media.  It is as pervasive as it is obstinate.  Both sides think they are correct and too few really recognize this nation is paying a heavy price because of the low-quality legal expertise that appears to guide the judgment and words of President David Granger.

This nation pays a judiciary to interpret the law including the Constitution.  The legislature makes that law and the executive implements it. Guyana has had a long and painful struggle to arrive at the seismic changes achieved in 1992.  Electoral policies such as counting the ballots at the place of poll and the cessation of overseas and postal voting brought this country back from the brink as a pariah state.  But the most revolutionary change that happened in 1992 was a reformation of the process behind how the Chairman of Gecom was appointed. Prior to 1991, the Chairman of Gecom (it was called something else then) was appointed by the President in a framework that was steeped in autocracy.  President Hoyte came under severe pressure from our friends in the ABC countries, as well as local and international struggles led by Dr Cheddi Jagan who was the Leader of the Opposition, to allow the commencement of the process to reform our electoral systems began in 1990.

Under the Carter formula for the appointment of the Gecom Chairman ahead of the 1992 elections, Jagan as the Opposition Leader submitted a list of eligible names to Hoyte from which Rudy Collins was selected by Hoyte to be the Chairman.  For those who do not know Mr Collins, he was an international diplomat, not a judge or former judge or someone who had the qualification, training or experience to be a judge. He was nevertheless deemed by Hoyte to be “fit and proper”.

Fast-forward to the constitutional case relating to the interpretation of Article 161(2) in front of Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George, who has not yet given a written opinion.  Thus, my grave disappointment in the premature comments attributed to President Granger on this issue in the media. If he is unhappy with the written ruling of the Chief Justice, the system provides the latitude for him to appeal that decision.

I am in full support of the principle that we must respect our judicial system even if we disagree with a written judgement.  We must as a people also recommit to the separation of powers between the judiciary, executive and legislature. The legislature makes the law, the executive enforces it and the judiciary interprets it. These are the three distinct branches of a functional government in a democratic society.

Yours faithfully,

Sase Singh

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