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January 1st, 2010

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Guyana as a nation of laws

December 8th, 2014

I was more than a little bit surprised by the statement in Mr. Lincoln Lewis’ letter that “[Guyana] is a nation of laws”: (Stabroek News 08-12-14, Constitutional Conversation). At best, it is a compendious articulation of one of the aspirations in the Preamble to the Constitution of Guyana to forge a “… harmonious community based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental rights, and the rule of law.”

To suggest that Guyana has attained the status of a nation of laws is not only dangerously misguided but a complete contradiction of all that Mr. Lewis has courageously argued for decades. In fact, I do not think that Mr. Lewis believes that the rule of law prevails in Guyana.
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Bacchus’ excursion avoids the real issues concerning Nandlall

December 2nd, 2014

Attorney-at-Law Murseline Bacchus (S/N November 27), to defend Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, against irresistible inferences of illegality from his infamous telephone conversation with Kaieteur News (KN) senior reporter, Mr. Leonard Gildarie, takes us back to a case 184 years ago in feudal England.

Mr. Bacchus was purportedly responding to a report in the Kaieteur News of Thursday November 6, 2014, under the caption “The world is watching police investigation – APNU”.

In the article, Mr. Joseph Harmon, an Opposition frontbencher and himself an attorney-at-law, raised concerns about the capacity and integrity of the authorities to undertake an independent investigation into the telephone conversation in which Mr. Nandlall objectified women; solicited for sexual purposes, on behalf of an uncle, a reporter of the newspaper; confessed to restraining the same uncle from taking serious criminal action against the newspaper proprietor; admitted to corruption involving public funds, drew attention to the increased activity against KN following the accusation by KN’s proprietor that his vehicle (Nandlall) was engaged in taking photographs of the newspaper building; declared knowledge of [an] impending armed attack[s] against the newspaper and its staff, and referred to a deal involving the President with the proprietor’s wife over a tax evasion matter.

This was, of course, the same conversation in which Nandlall boasted of his blood descent from the ancient Hindu warrior caste, Kshatriya, and encouraged Mr. Gildarie to leave his current employer and join the “elitist’ press unit being set up by the Government.
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Prorogation and its consequences

November 23rd, 2014

Today’s column looks at the implications and consequences of the prorogation of the Parliament as promulgated by President Ramotar. Given the widespread unfamiliarity with the prorogation power and its use, it is not surprising that the development has generated such wide ranging and at times contradictory views in the media. There are two such views which though peripheral, warrant some comment: one on the description of the Constitution and the other the spending authority of the Executive during prorogation.

Some persons take objections to the prorogation powers being attributed to what many describe as the Burnham Constitution. They are being over-sensitive. The reference is eponymous and descriptive, not political or pejorative. The Munroe Doctrine is not any less the Monroe Doctrine because John Kennedy applied it or Obama modified its practical application. Certain documents are so path-breaking that they take on the name and the character of the perceived author such as the “Kaldor Budget” of the PPP Government in 1962, even though Kaldor was not even a member of the Government, let alone the Minister of Finance.

Rather than defending the Constitution these writers and commentators should address their minds to the governance model underpinning the Constitution and offer their comments and recommendations for enhancement. This prorogation has strengthened the conviction, among supporters and critics of the Government that the model is not only not working but is counterproductive.

The other is the opinion expressed by Member of Parliament and of the Shadow Cabinet Mr. Ronald Bulkan who argues that the Executive has spending authority only up to December 31, 2014. Unfortunately Mr. Bulkan did not say whether he was expressing a view shared by the Shadow Attorney General Mr. Basil Williams and the Shadow Cabinet even as he suggested that any public expenditure after that date (presumably other than direct charges on the Consolidated Fund), would be unconstitutional and illegal.

If that view is shared by Mr. Williams, it begs the question whether Mr. Williams is in the process of seeking an interpretation by the High Court or whether he will have his legal challenge ready come December 31, 2014. If on the other hand, Mr. Bulkan’s opinion is entirely personal, it seems more than a little irresponsible for any MP to be saying to all public employees – teachers, nurses, police, etc. – that any payment to them for services rendered after December 31, 2014 will be unconstitutional and illegal until sanctioned by the National Assembly. This is time for political education and action, not unjustifiable scare mongering.
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Clarification on Government can spend up to November 30, 2015 without approval

November 14th, 2014

One person has raised directly with me, and another through the Stabroek News blog, asking for clarification or explanation on how I arrived at the date of November 30, 2015 to which a re-elected PPP/C could spend money without going to the National Assembly.

I set out below a Table showing the Timeline based on my understanding of the Constitution of Guyana and the assumption that the PPP/C is re-elected, whether as a majority or on a plurality. It also assumes that the PPP/C will take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the increasingly exposed anti-democratic Constitution.

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Government can spend up to November 30, 2015 without approval

November 13th, 2014

The President has done what many, I included, feared he would – but still hoped he would not do – prorogue the National Assembly. In so doing President Ramotar was exercising a power that then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham retained for himself under the Constitution of 1980.

The power to prorogue which Mr. Burnham as Prime Minister enjoyed under the Independence Constitution through the Governor General was intended for a different purpose than for which Mr. Ramotar used it. It was intended simply to close one session of the National Assembly. With each session of the National Assembly now firmly set by Standing Orders authorised under Article 165 of the Constitution, the prorogation should have become otiose and abolished. The use of it is clearly a retrograde step.
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