Pending appeal decision President should adhere to interpretation of Article 161 which PNC has not objected to in 15 years

Dear Editor,

The preservation of Guyana’s democracy commences with following strictly the articles of Guyana’s Constitution as it relates to the appointment of a chairman of the Elections Commission. Though tribal instincts in our over-politicised society prevail, at the very least preserving our democracy through free and fair elections ought to be ring-fenced as an apolitical issue as it protects the single most important electoral right of all Guyanese to choose and remove the government.

Despite public utterances by legal luminaries, self-professed or otherwise, the proper institution to definitively determine the interpretation of the relevant constitutional article regarding the appointment of an Elections Commission chairman is, of course, the court and the recent ruling by the Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire is under appeal with the likelihood of significant passage of time leading to finality. Given that likelihood and the requirement for local government elections next year, and general elections by 2020 without the possibility of extension, since it requires the agreement of the parliamentary opposition (a position already definitely pronounced on in the negative by the Leader of the Opposition and General Secretary of the PPP), it would be the advisable, sensible, responsible and the preferred option for the President to adhere to the status quo interpretation (adopted and practised without objection by the PNC for over 15 years whilst in opposition; it was also a party to the drafting and amendment of the Constitution for that very Article 161) until the court has ultimately decided. Departing from such without the court’s definitive ruling raises unnecessarily too many questions, but answers the question of whether the PNC is committed to free and fair elections.

Let’s be clear, not once was this issue ever raised prior to 2015 by David Granger, the PNC, or any of the other parties in the partnership, let alone on the campaign trail leading into the election. So why the haste to appoint someone not on the submitted list when the interpretation of the article is before the court? There are far more important issues facing our country than departing from a practice that was never raised as an issue in question, and has not once obstructed our governance.

David Granger is more than the leader of the PNC. As president he is the leader of the whole of Guyana. As president he is tasked not with getting the PNC or APNU or APNU+AFC back in power through questionable means but through praiseworthy performance. That is what will ensure Guyana’s transformation. What will not is taking away the single most important right that Guyanese have – the right to choose their political representatives through free and fair elections.

Yours faithfully,

Charles S Ramson

Attorney-at-law

Former MP

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