EVEN after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) struck down the High Court and Court of Appeal rulings for a third term for former President Bharrat Jagdeo, his party’s presidential candidate for the coming elections is still trying to ease the opposition leader in through a back door entrance to power.
Recently, on the radio programme the Political Show, Ali announced that he wants Jagdeo to serve as his vice-president should the party win the 2020 elections.
Days later, questioned about Ali’s desires, Jagdeo said: “I have not given serious thought to where and what role, but I know that I will be in government supporting Irfaan Ali to be the best President this country has ever had.”
However, Director-General at the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, spared no effort in describing Ali’s desire as he saw it.
“They are testing the waters I would say. They are testing the patience of the Guyanese people and their tolerance for lawlessness, because clearly there is a decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice that says that this gentleman cannot be the President or prime minister and so, putting him as vice-president, when the President’s gone, he can act as President. That is really getting it through the back door,” he said.
Just before the May 2015 General and Regional Elections, Georgetown resident Cedric Richardson approached the High Court requesting orders that sought to invalidate the amendments made to the constitution with respect to the presidential term limit.
Richardson claimed that his right to choose whom he desired to be president, by virtue of Articles One and Nine of the Constitution of Guyana was diluted when Article 90 of the Constitution was altered to disqualify a person who had already served two terms as president.
However, the CCJ ultimately declared that Section Two of the Constitution (Amendment) (No 4) Act of 2000 was a constitutional amendment to Article 90 of the Constitution of Guyana.
While Jagdeo told the public amidst the tense battles that he does not wish to run for a third term, the vice-president is a political position in Guyana which acts as the constitutional successor for the President.
For example, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo is Guyana’s first vice-president and stands in place of President David Granger when he is out of the jurisdiction. Minister Khemraj Ramjattan is the country’s second vice-president and has stood in the place of the prime minister while he was out of the jurisdiction.
Jagdeo was President of Guyana from August 11, 1999 to December 3, 2011.
While many of the PPP/C’s supporters have applauded Ali’s desire on the basis that Jagdeo remains “well liked” amongst citizens, Working People’s Alliance (WPA) executive Dr David Hinds had noted a pattern within the opposition party for quite some time.
He was not surprised earlier in the year when the PPP/C’s Central Committee selected Ali as the 2020 presidential candidate.
Dr Hinds had explained: “…Ali’s selection indicates very clearly that should the PPP win the election, it will continue the Jagdeo agenda that was interrupted when the party lost power in 2015… in effect, I see an Ali presidency as a Jagdeo third term. This I think should be cause for concern for all those who would like to see a Guyana that is ethnically inclusive and a state that is untied from the bad influences of the past. Neither Mr Jagdeo, the PPP or Mr Ali has repudiated the Jagdeo agenda or has put forward a new agenda.”
Speaking to the newspaper on Sunday Dr Hinds said that those watching the political playout can see that Ali’s presidency will be a proxy Jagdeo presidency.
He said that any citizen who hopes to avoid a reccurrence of the past, would think carefully before they cast their vote.
“With Jagdeo as vice-president it becomes more than a proxy. Jagdeo would in effect be institutionally positioned to run the government without the title of president. He would be the de facto president. Such an arrangement would not break any law. But it would be a crass manipulation of the system to achieve Jagdeo’s ambition. I think that if it materialises it would be the biggest political con job ever carried out in Guyana. I can’t speak for other PPP leaders, but I am quite surprised that they would allow such a thing to be done in their name. If I were a PPP supporter looking for a post-Jagdeo PPP, I would start looking elsewhere to put my ‘X’,” he said.
Jagdeo has since sought to somewhat distance himself from the Ali’s vice-presidency remarks, while not giving a direct response to Ali’s invitation.
“First of all, it’s not a third term. We never discussed this. I think this is his expression, his desire,” the opposition leader said, adding: “I made it clear, I will be part of the next government. I want to be part of the next government.”
Following the CCJ’s ruling, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo referred to the decision as a triumph for Guyanese and the constitution.
He stated that the ruling “gives validation of the belief of a large section of Guyanese people, that you should not have an abuse of office by those who feel that they own the seat of government and those who feel that the executive authority belongs to an individual. We cannot personalise authority, we cannot personalise power and governance. The people of Guyana have triumphed today.”
He reminded that the citizens of Guyana had consented to this amendment of only two terms when they participated in the Constitutional Reform Process in 1996.
When the amendment was eventually taken to the National Assembly in 2000, both the PPP and the PNC voted for the change.
According to trade unionist Lincoln Lewis, the CCJ’s ruling “brings hope and a sense of validation that the Constitution sets no one above the law.”
He stated that Guyanese must be vigilant in protecting the Constitution and whether or not one likes it, the Constitution rules without fear or favour.
Lewis stated: “The two-term limit broadens the spectrum for more Guyanese participating at this level of decision-making and said office. It is hoped members of the respective political parties and people of Guyana will see this as a positive sign for our fledgling democracy, and be encouraged to further activities to deepen and strengthen our various rules and laws to give more meaning to our Constitution.”