A government of laws, and not of men

Dear Editor,

The second President of the United States of America, John Adams, once described his Government as “a government of laws, and not of men.” The philosophy which underpins this statement is the foundation of modern democratic governments. Its antithesis are political dictatorship, authoritarianism and anarchy.

Each passing day exposes both, at a philosophical and practical level, this Government’s constant battle to comply with our fundamental law, the Constitution. There appears to be a deep-seated ideology embedded in this Government which violently collides with that ancient British adage, nay truism, “ye may be high. But ye is never higher than the law.” It is only that type of innate mentality which can explain the constant and continuous assertion in the Courts of this land that Presidential actions and decisions are not reviewable by the Judiciary, although the Constitution is supreme and therefore, the Presidency is but a creature of the very Constitution. That such a concept, which owes it jurisprudential genesis in the Royal Prerogative, has been rejected half a century ago throughout the British Common-wealth on the basis that is has no place in a legal system predicated upon a doctrine of constitutional supremacy (as ours is), coupled with the fact that our Courts have overruled such a plea every time it has been raised, seem not to daunt the Attorney General. In fact, in the case filed against the appointment of the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the contention is elevated to even greater untutored heights. The argument is that the Judiciary will be violating the Doctrine of Separation of Powers were it to review the President’s decision!

It is this ideology which blinds a Government to the clear language of the Constitution  because it cannot fathom that the Executive President, the fountain of all powers, is obliged to choose a person from a list of names submitted to him by the Leader of the Opposition. This school of thinking perceives such constitutional requirement as an unnecessary shackle on the “omnipotence” of the Executive Presidency.

It is the same kind of philosophy which drives the instinctive remark that a Chief Justice’s Ruling, is her own opinion and therefore, not binding on the President. It is a similar thinking which manifests itself in formal letters being written by Ministers of the Executive, giving directions to independent constitutional commissions!

Those consumed with such an ideology will always view the Constitution, the laws, independent oversight bodies and similar mechanisms, as hurdles and obstacles. Hence, the constant attempt to violate and undermine them. So in the Parliament, Ministers, in violation of all principles known to parliamentary democracy and of the spirit of the Constitution itself, chair oversight Committees. This occurs in no other democracy in the British Common-wealth. The Minister of Finance unilaterally cutting the budgets of independent constitutional agencies on the floor of the National Assembly and the vilification of a Judge on the Bench by the Principal Legal Adviser of the Government, are all actions which manifest this ideology.


Yours faithfully,

Anil Nandlall

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