Constitutional challenge case gains widespread interest

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first_imgContretemps on CCJ ruling on AG vs Richardson caseWhile the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is adjudicating the appeal of the Attorney General in the case of the Attorney General of Guyana, Raphael Trotman v Cedric Richardson, a very spirited discussion of the proceedings has erupted in the letters pages of the local newspapers.Public Security Minister Khemraj RamjattanWhile the case has somewhat sensationally been dubbed “the third term case”, the restriction of Richardson’s choice of selecting a presidential candidate by excluding individuals that have already served two terms of office by Art 17 of 2001 was only one restraint of the respondent’s exercise of the sovereignty of the Guyanese people. There were three other restraints: (A) that only a citizen by birth or of parentage can qualify to be the President; (B) that a person must be residing in Guyana on the date of nomination for election; and (C) must have been a resident for seven years immediately before that date.The High Court of Guyana ruled that this restraint violated the sovereignty of the people, held inviolate by the basic structure of the Constitution, and could only be legally valid if confirmed by a referendum of the people. This decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal. The AG appealed to the CCJ on his own, and the then Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, joined him.Guyana Times had consistently argued that the issue was whether the people of Guyana could delegate their sovereignty to their representatives via Art 9: “Sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercise it through their representatives and the democratic organs established by or under this constitution”, only to have those representatives constrain that sovereignty.University Professor and long-time PNCR member Sherwood Lowe was moved to change his earlier disagreement with the decision of the High Court, and has now moved to change his opinion after hearing this argument put forward by one of the Attorneys for Richardson, Mendez. In his phrasing of his change of mind, he then followed the popular categorisation of the case, and concluded that, in his opinion, the CCJ would accept Mendez’s argument and Bharrat Jagdeo would be able to run for a third term in 2020.This opinion appears to have disturbed a legal hornet’s nest, impelling former member of the CCJ, Justice Pollard, to disagree vehemently with Lowe and restate his original view from a year ago: that the “sovereignty of the people” could only be discerned by a mechanical textual exegesis of Article 1 – “Guyana is an indivisible, secular, democratic sovereign state.”Joining Justice Pollard on Friday was former magistrate Maxwell. E. Edwards, who, in his usual prolix and more polemical style, took almost 1800 words to basically agree with the former. However, in one rather alarming development, it was reported that Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, the Chairman of the AFC, a party in the Coalition Government, claimed to know that the CCJ will rule against Richardson. While such a declaration may be acceptable as a hope, observers say that such an unequivocal declarative statement does not bode well for the vaunted independence of our Caribbean Judicial System.This newspaper has been attempting unsuccessfully to contact Ramjattan for a clarification.last_img

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