One of the few issues of agreement between all political parties in Guyana after 1992 was term limitation for the President. It was proposed by the Constitutional Reform Commission in 2000 and subsequently enacted by Act No. 17 of 2001. The PPP had earlier proposed a limitation of two terms to the Special Select Committee on Constitutional Reform established by the National Assembly after the 1992 elections. But its work came to a premature end with the dissolution of the National Assembly for the 1997 elections.

The Constitution Reform Commission was established in 1999 pursuant to the Herdmanston Accord. This was signed by the main political parties in an effort to restore calm after continuing disturbances following the 1997 general elections. All parties and interests represented on the Constitution Reform Commission supported the limitation on presidential terms and it was a major constitutional innovation for Guyana.

On August 11, 1999, while the constitution reform process was in full swing, Bharrat Jagdeo succeeded to the presidency upon the resignation of Mrs. Janet Jagan. Until then there was not a single voice in the PPP in opposition to the presidential term limitation which had already been decided and which had already been put to the Constitution Reform Commission by a delegation led by then General Secretary Donald Ramotar.

After all of this had happened, Feroze Mohamed and Gail Teixeira, neither of whom had hitherto made any objection to presidential term limits, raised an objection to it in the executive committee of the party and sought to revisit the issue. They argued that the choice of president is a matter for the electorate and suggested that the party should change its position. While the suggestion was quickly dismissed, it would not surprise anyone that the assumption of office of Dr. Jagdeo and the effort to persuade the party to change its mind about the term limitation were linked. Since then the issue of term limitation for the president has never been far from the headlines.

In 2010 a large billboard appeared along with flyers, buttons and other paraphernalia promoting a third term for Dr. Jagdeo. The effort did not succeed after Donald Ramotar publicly voiced his objection. During last year, after an article I had written, Dr. Luncheon assured the Guyanese public that the Government supports the constitutional limitation on presidential terms and believes it to be lawful. Dr. Jagdeo has also repeatedly assured the Guyanese people that he is not interested in a third term.

Act No. 17 of 2001 amended article 90 of the Constitution to provide for term limitation and other qualifications for the president, pursuant to the recommendations of the Constitution Reform Commission. Amendments can be made to the Constitution under article 164 by a two-third majority for some articles and a two-third majority together with a referendum for others. Act No. 17 of 2001 had received a two-third majority in 2001.

In Richardson v Attorney General and Trotman, decided on Thursday July 9, the Chief Justice ruled that notwithstanding the provisions of article 164, Act No 17 of 2001 in so far as it ‘dilutes’ the democratic rights of the electorate to elect a president of its own choice, needed a referendum and therefore violates article 164. The Chief Justice argues that the Constitution cannot be subject to amendment by addition and Act 17 of 2001 adds new provisions to article 90 relating to the qualifications for president. The other main reason given by the Chief Justice is that a two-third majority cannot alter a provision of the Constitution in diminution of its ‘normative’ characteristics as providing that Guyana is an indivisible, secular, democratic and sovereign state. He identified the right of a citizen to elect a president as such a provision and held that the amendment affected such a right. The decision clears the way for a third term for Dr. Jagdeo.

In a letter to the Stabroek News of Saturday July 11, Professor Justice Duke Pollard disagreed with the opinion of the Chief Justice saying that it was ‘wrongly determined,’ ‘irretrievably flawed’ and is likely to be ‘overturned on appeal.’ Professor Justice Pollard, a retired judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice, focused on the soft underbelly of Chief Justice Chang’s decision. He criticized the Chief Justice’s characterization of the imposition of term limits on a president and, consequently, the right of the Plaintiff, or any citizen of Guyana, to elect a president of their choice as being a ‘normative requirement’ affecting ‘democratic sovereignty.’

The inadequate synopsis of Chief Justice Chang’s decision and Professor Justice Pollard’s letter, reduced to two paragraphs above, do not do justice to their arguments. But the issue is of such fundamental importance to our political system and to constitutional rule that it is most important that they be highlighted to stimulate public interest.

It would have been tempting to suggest that whatever the outcome of appeals, the matter should be definitively dealt with during the process of constitutional reform. But while appeals in this case are pending and Dr. Jagdeo sniffs at a potential return as president, the PPP is not going to be interested in any kind of reform. It never was anyway.

Join the Conversation



      Buxtonian Dr David Hinds is based in the US, and enjoys its freedoms and luxuries, But in his mismatched trance he mistakenly believes all things Black American are all automatically Guyanese. He conveniently blurs majority white America enslaved Blacks but Guyanese majority Indians are also victims of Europeans. Indians did not enslave Black people or anyone else. Piling up Black victimhood on Indians Guyanese for relief and compensation will never be valid, justified or acceptable because Indians have moved on through no fault of their own. Dr Hinds and company will forever be in complaint to stir Guyana’s race acrimony because he wrote it, quoted below.
      “The PNC coalition seems to have no answer to Jagdeo” as the Afrocentric Dr David Hinds wrote with special SN privileges on 22-4-2015, in public lamentation. Firm in his response Dr Hinds observes : “They are not fighting back. You are not going to overcome him with press releases or by brushing him aside; you have to reduce (sic) him down to your size in the eyes of his supporters and your supporters. Vanessa Kissoon has his number; she has given the Coalition the “Jagdeo narrative”—fight a bad man like a bad man. Vanessa, Rupert Roopnaraine, Chris Ram and Freddie Kissoon, in their separate ways, have shown how you deal with him. Chris Ram’s court action is a master stroke; he has shown the attack dog that there is counter-attack. Every time Roopnaraine urges the ( PNC led) coalition supporters to revolution, the PPP gets nervous. They understand the power of that word in appealing to the consciousness of the coalition’s supporters. And Freddie Kissoon ridicules them with reason (sic)” – all this so Dr Hinds firmly believes by what he has admitted.
      Dr Hinds is resolute about his Afrocentric agenda for which he makes no apologies. But his allies and company are either confused or lashing out at anything in their path to be like the Joneses. No power sharing can be tenable which seeks the others destruction for their total annihilation as am ethnic cleansing agenda item. Dr Jagdeo gains traction because he is seen as the bulwark against “coolie bullyism”, crime and a democratic Guyana where economic race equality has been most rewarding.

      On the other hand, Dr Hinds cannot hide his glee that “revolution” scares the PPP and its working class supporters. One may be tempted to believe Dr Hinds is the joker in the pack of cards. Is Dr Hinds in some dream world and really believes these decultured and mislabelled tampons can impact or stem their own political infections much less frighten the PPP’s and Dr Rodney’s prized working class masses determined to overcome poverty?
      Noticeable is the relative ease and matter of fact manner by which Dr Hinds can, by special SN privilege, advocate a “gutter in your face” violent confrontation with the PPP. He does not hold back but pinpoints directly on the future imminent dangers which PPP leaders, friends and their supporters would be expected to face each day. So immediately after the coalition took power the crime rate has dramatically increased. Obviously the PNC led coalition government’s rigged election empowerment has signalled open crime season on Guyanese yearning to breathe free. Where is the PNC coalition’s promised change for the better? Are Guyanese worse off than before? In retrospect former Home Affairs Minister Mr Clement Rohee has become a national star compared to his drowning successor who is no lightweight. Isn’t Mr Rohee that perpetual PPP target against whom they railroaded an unprecedented “no confidence motion” because they considered him incompetent?
      In any event, the PPP in opposition must take care not to erect rigid stationary targets so that the flies could alight and pigpen their dazzling economic shimmer. The PNC is historically unaccustomed to an assertive talk back in your face PPP and is totally lost. PNC paramountcy militarization is their response which is countered by Venezuelan revolutionary rattling because the Brigadier General is well trained to tango and go to war.
      Constantly but flexibly devoted to socialist changes with its left wing ideology the PPP has historically subsumed race to class. With no natural destructive clout to terrorise and destroy Guyana, democracy and the ballot became their natural course to change Guyana. Not so the PNC where race is all that matters, the be all and end all of its entire existence. Its destructiveness can destroy Georgetown at will but is totally incapable of making life better even as Mayor Green’s stinking garbage piles up daily under the same PNC now in control at the national level. Where is the promised change?
      Dr Hinds himself invokes fear to remind Guyanese of proud PNC coalition terrorism:” Every time Roopnaraine urges the coalition supporters to revolution, the PPP gets nervous. They understand the power of that word in appealing to the consciousness of the coalition’s supporters.” What is Dr Hinds Afrocentric frequent ambush of public opinion owning which is not already known but which some decultured Indians in their ranks obviously have turned a blind eye?
      PNC coalition problems does not however minimise the dangers which the PPP and others will face to restore Guyana. All Guyanese and more so PPP supporters are crying “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” (Movie Network) after the ratcheting up of crime,violence and brutality which is targeting their base. They must act decisively and not in wrath. They must fan out on a diplomatic offensive to woo and win over the ABC countries. In the meantime they must put their opponents in their place that the old ways are up for review. Guyana’s armed forces must be racially balanced as a precursor to any concessions or negotiations. Federalism must become an agenda item for racial peaceful coexistence.

      Writing in the SN of 27-4-2015 titled “The PPP/C needs to rein in Jagdeo” British citizen Mr Christopher Ram exhibits naive British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich Agreement appeasement of Adolph Hitler in his everyday approach to the PNC. When Hitler continued his aggression by invading Poland, Britain declared war on Germany one year later in 1939 leading to World War 11. Mr Ram and company relishes their roles of attacking the PPP because their entire lives is a rejection of their own origins and existence for Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay’s “others” approval and validation. Assuredly they will be too old and will flee Guyana rather than confront inevitable PNC paramountcy and open dictatorship. Little qualifies them to solve problems when they are part of the problem. Sanctifying well known destructive PNC sharper steele makes them most pleased to have done so with abandon and glee. Should it matter that their cultural nobility has been totally compromised? Who or what is their inspiration is none but ego and self aggrandisement and that is all that matters. Now that the PNC coalition is in empowered their dilemma is reversed which makes them useless.

      Mr Ram knows the truth. He was told and has not personally witnessed that “It is true that many of the PPP/C’s more extreme, grass root supporters admire Jagdeo’s aggressive style, targeting the APNU’s African-Guyanese leaders and their supporters. But APNU too has persons with extreme views and sentiments, and who consider Jagdeo’s message grave (sic) provocation. At some point their patience and tolerance could snap.”

      Mr Ram cares not to tackle those PNC extremists who he was told about because he himself fears becoming a victim of their familiar “snap and intolerance” sharper steele. So he lets them slide while he batters the PPP to kowtow and appease the militarizing gathering. Why and what makes him and others of his kind heroic when the in your face Afrocentric agenda seeks to overwhelm and conquer? He cannot be totally dismissive that Indians have no militant Indocentric mass leadership to match his side which he has also chosen to pile on, champion and defend. That Mr Ram is regurgitating what he has been told is made up to Trojan Horse scare his countrymen into dangerous PNC submission. Partition is their answer for such extremists viewpoint since such intolerance has no temperance. Federalism seeks to keep Guyana united and to allow each other space to breathe free from each others humbugs. What is there so difficult to comprehend?
      To his credit Mr Ram admits PPP success but blames President Jagdeo nevertheless. Mr Ram concedes: “This country has made much progress in relations between the two main race groups following 1997. But that improvement must not be taken for granted and there is no doubt in the minds of more sober persons that Jagdeo’s conduct and his speeches are undermining (sic) that progress.” Are these “sobered” persons part of the Georgetown cocktail circuit who believe no others matter?
      What Mr Ram and his ilk fails to acknowledge it was the PPP which improved race relations not the violence prone PNC and its extremists. Why have Mr Ram and those whom he daily Hitler appeases failed to embrace Federalism where they can snap and salute to thy kingdom down come forever with unhindered total emancipation? Mr Kissoon and company can ridicule whomsoever they want with no good reason ad infinitum. But isn’t it more by cowardice and flight they totally avoid public debate. Theirs is a sociological paradox because they want to mix and live like parasites within the body which they abhor and yet they want to be wined and dined and approved for it. Bring it on if debate is what they seek. What is there to be feared when democracy has no allies but justice and equal right for all to be free. The free press can either facilitate public debate or kill it. Right now their three to one ratio favouring the PNC is very scary. That must change and both the SN and KN must readjust.
      Sultan Mohamed

  1. It’s such a joke that these “legal luminaries” write laws and use all sorts of big words and when come time to interpret the laws all of them are confused as to what it really means, and they all have their own opinions. Two canecutters or porknockers could make a simpler, better, ultra clear law.

    1. I cannot help but agree. Why all the complicated language lends itself to so many interpretations. Unfortunate. But Mr. Jagdeo is headed for imminent disater. The love for power will pave a merry path to self destruction.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.