A compelling logic exists for keeping legislature out of setting qualifications for candidates

Dear Editor,

I hesitated to respond to the letters by Professor Justice Duke Pollard (`Lowe’s conclusion on case before CCJ was spurious’, in SN March 21) and by Maxwell Edwards (`I reject Sherwood Lowe’s conclusion on the third term case as incredulous’, in KN March 25), in which they both expressed displeasure over my comments on the persuasiveness of the oral argument at the CCJ on behalf of Richardson in the so-called presidential term-limit case. I hesitated because in our country’s political psyche, supporting (or rejecting) a legal position of this nature is inevitably perceived as supporting (or opposing) one of the political parties whose interests are at stake. Let me therefore clarify here and now that, firstly, I fully agree with the need for presidential term-limit in Guyana politics. Secondly, I am not a supporter of  Bharrat Jagdeo as a politician. In fact, I believe that should he get the chance to run in the 2020 election, his polarizing and aggravating style would serve to galvanize the base of the coalition parties at a time when they need it. Supporters of the coalition parties should therefore be careful for what they wish from this legal case.

That said, I can now remove my political hat to return to the legal matter at hand. Professor Pollard and Edwards must surely know, learned gentlemen from the legal fraternity as they are,  that the central argument advanced on behalf of Richardson— that the people must be free to choose whomever they wish to represent them, that the sovereignty of the people in selecting their representatives cannot therefore be restricted by the legislature (i.e., by others), and that any criterion for eligibility of candidates must therefore be blessed, in the proper manner and form, by the people themselves—is enshrined constitutional doctrine in the US (U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, for example).

And a compelling logic does exist for keeping the legislature out of setting qualifications for candidates. Imagine a legislature composed mostly of green men. If the power to set term-limits and other qualifications rested in the legislature, what would stop these green men from using their super majority to amend the constitution so that to run for president, one must be both a man and green at birth? Edwards in his letter calls this representative democracy. But this is neither representative nor democracy. So for Justice Pollard to refer to this position as “spurious” and “incoherent” and for Edwards to call it “incredulous” sounded somewhat nervous.

Lastly, for the CCJ to reject Richardson’s argument, it will have to either go the route advised by Professor Pollard (that the CCJ should define the yet-to-be-defined constitutional usage of the terms “democracy” and “sovereignty” in its own fashion) or the opposite route of Edwards in his claim that what is meant by “sovereignty belongs to the people” is not in doubt, but that sovereignty is not absolute.   I do not find either position as convincing.

Yours faithfully

Sherwood Lowe

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