The Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) ruling yesterday upholding presidential term limits should be respected by all as impartial and principled as its basis was founded on Guyana’s own constitution, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo says.
“In explaining what the CCJ decision means for the people of Guyana, the Prime Minister said that Guyana’s Constitution should be respected since it is the instrument by which Guyanese should be guided,” the Department of Public Information yesterday stated. “
“This, he said, means citizens should respect the efficiency and integrity of the judicial system and not ascribe motives of bias and racism in our local courts or at the Caribbean Court of Justice as well,” the release added.
Nagamootoo, who is performing the functions of President since President David Granger is in Vietnam on official duty, told the state-owned information agency that the ruling should be seen as a triumph for Guyanese and the constitution.
He is quoted as saying that the ruling “gives validation of the belief of a large section of Guyanese people, that you should not have an abuse of office by those who feel that they own the seat of government and those who feel that the executive authority belongs to an individual.”
Nagamootoo added, “We cannot personalise authority, we cannot personalise power and governance. The people of Guyana have triumphed today.”
Nagamootoo reflected on the genesis of the crafting of the law and reminded that if the constitution states that there is only scope for two presidential terms, it would be unlawful to do otherwise.
He also reminded that the citizens of Guyana had consented to this amendment when they participated in the Constitutional Reform Process in 1996. He noted that when the amendment was eventually taken to the National Assembly in 2000, both of the parties, the PPP/C and the PNC voted for the change. They “voted for there to be only two terms for anyone who would contest to be president,” DPI quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
But he also pointed out that with a decision made by Guyana’s highest court, it was time for the nation to focus on developing the country. “We must now put this issue that I have considered to be a trifle behind us and look to the political arena to throw up leaders of credibility, of merit, and those who have a desire to serve the country and not use power for self-interest,” he said.
Nagamootoo’s party, the Alliance For Change (AFC), also weighed in on the ruling saying that it believes that the decision is consistent with the Constitution of Guyana and what it intends.
The AFC stated that presidential term limits is an essential feature of modern democratic societies to which Guyana has subscribed and as such the country must not be “bullied into regression to satisfy the power-hungry ambitions of one man.”
“This decision by Guyana’s highest court reaffirms the paramountcy of the rule of law and of the sovereignty of the Parliament as it must never be forgotten that the Parliament of Guyana unanimously approved the raft of constitutional reforms that ushered in an era of inclusive governance where `winner take all’ politics was dismantled,” the statement said.
“As every Guyanese knows, this case, with Cedric Richardson used as a pawn, was about one man – Bharrat Jagdeo – and his unnatural obsession with power. This case is not about the rights of Guyanese which are protected by the Constitution, it was not about freedom of choice, it was a last ditch attempt by Jagdeo and his acolytes to shamelessly attempt to grab power through the back door,” it added.
Jagdeo has repeatedly distanced himself from the case saying he did not know Cedric Richardson, the plaintiff and that his party also had no role, financial or other, in Richardson’s case.
The AFC said that even if Jagdeo were to run for the presidency, that the party is confident that the people of Guyana would reject him and that ”he would be resoundingly defeated at the polls”.
The ruling, according to the AFC, was “won for every Guyanese, particularly the young people, and for our country’s future.”