Gov’t illegal on March 22 without extension – Ramkarran

-says appeal court should give `appropriate guidance

The Court of Appeal should give “appropriate guidance” on what happens if there is no agreement to extend the March 21 deadline for the holding of general elections, Senior Counsel and co-founder of the ANUG political party Ralph Ramkarran says while also arguing that the government would become illegal.’

Referring to President David Granger’s speech on Friday to the nation where he said the government was acting in compliance with the constitution, Ramkarran, in his column in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek said: “Notwithstanding the President’s use of selected articles of the Constitution to justify his untenable views as to the current state of affairs, created by the Government’s failure to fix a date for elections before March 21, the Government becomes illegal on March 22. One of two things ought to have happened by March 21; namely, elections ought to have been held, or the life of the National Assembly extended. Neither occurred, despite the decision of the Chief Justice (ag) that elections have to be held in three months after December 21, the date of passage of the no-confidence motion. The Government insists that it has a right to be heard in Court and in doing so, insists that it has a right to violate the Constitution while awaiting the Court’s verdict. President Granger blithely ignores the nation’s right to elections and relies on the invented veto which he has accorded to the Elections Commission.

“The President’s speech cannot stop time. On the morning of March 22, all Guyanese will awaken to the existence of a Government that is a usurper, has no right to hold office, can make no decisions affecting Guyana or Guyanese, can collect no taxes, has no authority over the security forces, can enter into no contracts, and can conduct no international discourse on behalf of Guyana. The National Assembly would have no lawful existence. Resort to the doctrine of necessity cannot apply to a situation that was deliberately created by the Government by its own acts or omissions about which it was publicly warned on countless occasions. The Government was publicly advised that it needed to implement the Chief Justice’s decisions in the absence of a stay. The Court of Appeal also refused a stay. Even up to that stage the Opposition stated that it was willing to extend the time for elections up to April 30. But the Government ignored everyone”.

With the constitutional deadline to hold elections following the December 21 passage of a no-confidence motion against the government expiring at the end of Thursday, there is mounting uncertainty as to what will happen after the deadline passes. With elections by March 21 an impossibility now, prospects of a political agreement between the governing APNU+AFC coalition and the opposition PPP/C to extend the deadline also appear dim. Further, President Granger is currently in Cuba receiving treatment for cancer. It is unclear when he will be returning.

There are several court cases pending and last Thursday, the Court of Appeal announced that it will soon be handing down a ruling on the appeals filed by government to challenge the validity of the December 21st, 2018 passage of the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly. Whether the ruling will be delivered before March 21 remains to be seen.

Further, on Friday, one day after the deadline expires, the Court will commence hearing arguments on applications for stays of the High Court judgments validating the passage of the no-confidence motion against the David Granger-led government.

In the column yesterday, Ramkarran, also a former PPP executive and former Speaker of the National Assembly, highlighted the importance of the court cases. Highlighting the urgency of the matter, he said that the decision can come before Friday. “If it does, the Court ought not to ignore the impending crisis and avoid dealing with the consequences of the failure of the Government to call elections in accordance with the Constitution and the decision of the Chief Justice (ag),” he wrote, while adding that the Court of Appeal may acknowledge the possibility of extending the life of the National Assembly by a two-thirds majority.

“But it ought not to merely acknowledge that possibility and wash its hands of the matter by ignoring the unlikelihood of it happening. It will therefore need to go further and express its view as to the consequences of the failure of achieving that objective. What happens next? If the Court of Appeal does not wish to abandon the nation to constitutional darkness, as some would say is its duty, it would have to give us the answer and appropriate guidance,” Ramkarran contended.

He said that if the Court of Appeal gives its decision after March 22, it will be doing so in circumstances where the Government “no longer has any legal status.” “There would be a huge gap in its decision if it does not address the absence of lawful, governmental, authority in Guyana. If the Court is of the view that as a result of the Government’s failure to hold elections within the stipulated time, it is holding office illegally, it must say so boldly and fearlessly,” Ramkarran argued.

“It cannot merely uphold the decision of the Chief Justice (ag), if it feels that her decision is sound, and walk away from the most serious constitutional crisis facing Guyana since its life began as an Independent nation in 1966,” Ramkarran said.

“The Court of Appeal must shine a legal light on the way forward. Of course, all this goes away if the Court rules that the majority of 65 is 34,” he wrote.

Ramkarran also contended that after March 21, the National Assembly “would have no lawful existence.”

“Resort to the doctrine of necessity cannot apply to a situation that was deliberately created by the Government by its own acts or omissions about which it was publicly warned on countless occasions,” he added. 

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