Judicial review is a check on any attempt at absolute power

Dear Editor,

I was fortunate to have observed the CCJ proceedings on the case State of Guyana v Cedric Richardson popularly known as the ‘Third Term Case’.  Fascinating stuff, and I am so proud to have had the opportunity to listen to the wisdom of the learned judges.  I found them to be razor sharp with their questions, so much so that on several occasions I felt sorry for the Head of the Guyana Bar, Mr Basil Williams, SC.

My bigger concern however after looking at those proceedings, is to remind those in the executive how very wrong they are when they think that this Burnham Constitution vests them with absolute power; it does not.  The Guyana Constitution vests in the judiciary the power to adjudicate upon the constitutional validity of all the laws without exception.  If a law made by Parliament violates the provisions and spirit of the Constitution, the CCJ does have the power to declare such a law ultra vires and not even a President of Guyana can overturn such a decision; only the people by way of a referendum can do so.  And we all know who cannot face the people in 2018 in a plebiscite because their popularity rating is around 38%.

Judicial review of the process of implementing the Constitution is a powerful check on any attempt at absolute power. It is now clear to me that the CCJ does have the power to put the brakes on the legislative eagerness of the Parliament, especially when they failed to change the Constitution by following due process.  But I do not want to presuppose anything, but shall await the verdict.

Collectively the honourable judges have taken a very principled position, which is that it is their job to protect the basic features of the Constitution and thus their commitment to the theory of basic structure.  Under no circumstances can Parliament alter the basic structure or framework of the Constitution if this can be seen to damage, emasculate or destroy that framework.

I am so grateful that Guyana has the CCJ as its highest court, so that our affairs can be adjudicated upon without any political pressure or posturing from the executive. From what I have seen from these honourable judges at the CCJ, Guyana can expect a fair decision.

Yours faithfully,

Sasenarine Singh

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