The President’s unilateral appointment of Justice Patterson was undoubtedly undemocratic based solely on the principle of democracy. But the fact that he could have done so, arguably, on constitutional grounds should send shock waves to every Guyanese concerned about the state of their democracy.
There is nothing in the Chief Justice issued ruling, regarding who is ‘fit and proper’ and who is deemed ‘unacceptable’, to safeguard against a President’s sole discretion to appoint a GECOM chairperson. We cry that he is required to provide reasons for dismissing candidates, but this alone does not secure democracy. Furthermore, there are no pronouncements in the ruling on whether the President’s arbitrary and subjective reasoning is to be considered either democratic or undemocratic.
The task of the Chief Justice was to provide an interpretation of the Constitution in accordance with the methodologies of law, what the Constitution provides and what is known about the Article being disputed (its history, context, intent and justification). Arguments were presented on both sides in the room. It was up to the Chief Justice to deliberate in her professional capacity to deliver an interpretation guided by reason.
But what about normative questions? For instance, should the President be considered fit and proper to make an impartial ‘objective’ decision in appointing someone who is to be impartial and fair? Who is to address this? The People? The politicians? Legal practitioners? I think it involves everyone. But first, we need to understand the very basis on which society is founded on and governed by — its notions, suppositions, and justifications.
It is our civic duty to educate ourselves and to educate others on the function of democracy and its institutions. A nation premised on ‘unity’ and ‘progress’ must demonstrate a willingness to be enlightened together. For only an enlightened populace can encourage and demand better politics. We do not need to rely on political parties to deliver this onto us. We, the people, are our own liberators.