CCJ must take ‘stern’ approach, order elections – attorney Kamal Ramkarran
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) must take a stern approach to the appeals before it on the December 21 No Confidence motion and order elections, attorney Kamal Ramkarran declared in arguments on Thursday.
“The court must put the Constitution back in its rightful place as the Supreme Law of Guyana; it is our rule book.
“It tells us how we must do the things we must do, and unless the court takes a very serious view of the facts that happened after the passage of the No Confidence motion, the constitution will never resume its rightful place as the Supreme Law of Guyana,” he argued before the five judges hearing the case.
Ramkarran along with Devindra Kissoon is representing Christopher Ram who filed an application with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to reverse or set aside the Guyana Appeal Court ruling that the No-Confidence motion was invalidly passed.
Ramkarran argued that in accordance with Article 106 of the Constitution, President David Granger was duty-bound to call elections within three months and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was constitutionally required to take steps to make those elections happen.
He reasoned that every other question in the appeals – crossing the floor, dual citizenship and what constituted a majority in the National Assembly – is a distraction from these fundamental questions.
Given Guyana’s history, he argued that the issues of democracy and rule of law cannot be divorced from the cases before the court.
“Your Honours must take note of our history of fraudulent elections and the fear that people have where elections are concerned; this has gone on for more than 50 years,” he stated.
Ramkarran argued that attacks on democracy and the rule of law don’t always look like they are. There are always excuses, he stated, such as suggestions that “we have to hear what the court decides, we can’t do anything” and that “GECOM is not ready, it needs money.”
“So the court has to be very careful in understanding that this background is intertwined in this case,” he stated.
Given that there was a successful No Confidence motion which led to a resolution that the National Assembly has no confidence in the government and so “if it means anything, it means elections were due in three months unless an extension was agreed.”
“It cannot have any meaning if elections are subject to delay through house to house registration,” he stated.
On house to house registration, he referred to an advertisement in the newspapers, which declares that even persons who are registered must register again, and that registration can be done with just a birth certificate that has no picture.
“Can your honours imagine what fears this would drive in the Guyanese people having regard to our history?”
“You can come off the register of electors if you are in Trinidad doing a case at the CCJ and they come to your house,” he stated.
Whether or not there is any bad intent, Ramkarran reasoned that the court must understand that all of this is tied to the history of Guyana.
According to Ramkarran, any interpretation of Article 106, which gives effect to democracy and the rule of law in Guyana, “must mean elections have to be held and they have to be held now, either with the list that was used for local government elections in November last year or with the database from which that list was created.”
He said that all persons can be registered at the age of 14 and when they attain the age of 18 their names are placed on a national register of registrants, which is used to prepare a voters list.
He said that perhaps a two-week period could be used for persons not on the list to get their names on the list and for persons who would have died for their names to be taken off.
“Unless the court takes a stern approach to this case, Article 106 means nothing.
“We can just pack up our constitution and go home and not worry with it, pretend it doesn’t exist,” he stated.
What should have happened when the resolution was passed in the National Assembly on December 21 is that there should have been a joint meeting with the President, the Opposition Leader, and the Chairman of the Elections Commission to decide on the earliest date for elections, and to seek a Parliamentary extension if more than the three-month constitutional timeline was needed.
Then, in the time leading up to elections, there would have been the government continuing in office in a caretaker capacity for the purpose of holding elections
But he lamented that there was no immediate meeting, and things were left to continue for the time to run.
“There is no court that can stop the mandatory operation of the constitution. The constitutions set timelines, and those timelines have to be met,” he stated.
As such, Ramkarran declared: “We would urge the court to order elections and to order them within a very short time. “
“I am aware and we are all aware that this court, has in its previous decisions, paid very high regard to democracy and the rule of law,” he added.