No ‘constitutional abyss’ if Parliament not called by month end – AG
Attorney General Basil Williams on Saturday said Guyana will not drop into a constitutional abyss if a new Parliament is not convened by April 30, saying that the four-month deadline for the convening of Parliament after the last one is dissolved is directory and not mandatory.
In a letter published by State newspaper Guyana Chronicle, Williams backed up his claim by citing the Court of Appeal decision in 2006.
“This case, Civil Appeal No.79 of 2006, was appealed by the Leadership of the AFC, challenging the PPPC’s convening the new Parliament, not on the 2nd day of September 2006 (four months after dissolution) but on the 28th of September, 2006 almost five months later,” stated Williams.
His letter comes two days after the Bar Council of the Guyana Bar Association pointed to Article 69 of the Constitution of Guyana which “mandates that, on dissolution, the next session of Parliament must commence no later than four (4) months from the end of the preceding session.
“The last session of Parliament was dissolved on December 30, 2019. The next session of Parliament must, therefore, begin no later than April 30, 2020.”
Because of this position, the Bar Council called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) inclusive of its Secretariat “to do all acts and things necessary in the shortest possible time to ensure the accurate, credible and transparent declaration of the results of the General and Regional Elections held on March 2, 2020 so that the next session of Parliament can commence as constitutionally prescribed, that is, no later than April 30, 2020.”
But Williams argued that the provision is “directory”, meaning that the provision is there merely for guidance and there is no legal obligation to comply with it, as opposed to if it was “mandatory”, meaning that it must be followed or there would be consequences.
And so, Williams charged that the Bar Association was peddling half-truths and said the lawyers of GECOM “would respond to the vituperation and abuse” directed towards it by the Bar Council.
“In conclusion as in 2006, Guyana would not in 2020 descend into any constitutional abyss were Gecom in all the prevailing circumstances in the pursuit of democracy is unable to meet the 30th April 2020 timeline,” Williams stated.