Guyana as a nation of laws

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.

But if he does, he needs to explain “the law” in the following:

1. The violation of Article 170 of the Constitution which requires the President to assent or explain in writing to the Speaker his refusal to assent, within 21 days, any Bills passed by the National Assembly and presented to him for assent.

2. Failure to establish several Commissions required under the Constitution including the Local Government Commission (77A), the Ethnic relations Commission (212A), the Human Rights Commission (212N), the Public Procurement Commission (212W) and the Public Service Appellate Tribunal (215A).

3. Failure to comply with Article 216 of the Constitution which requires that all “revenues or other moneys raised or received by Guyana … be paid into and form one Consolidated Fund”.

4. Placing public funds into accounts controlled by Office of the President and at least one Ministry.

5. Spending of huge sums in violation of an express non-assent by the National Assembly and of Article 217 of the Constitution.

6. The admission by the country’s leader of the Bar Anil Nandlall that he “took” money from the public purse and put it back when a newspaper proprietor threatened to go public with the information.

7. Failure to hold Local Government Elections over a span of seventeen years as required by the Local Authorities (Election) Act.

8. Appropriation of public property to establish the exclusive community Pradoville 2 mainly for former President Bharrat Jagdeo and members of the ruling party.

9. Failure to constitute the Integrity Commission as required by the Integrity Commission Act.

10. Violation of the human rights of persons killed extra-judicially by the State or its agents.

Mr. Lewis understands the Constitution more than many lawyers in Guyana and knows that it is the fundamental law of the country. To defile and violate it is the very antithesis of the rule of law and is indefensible.

It is doubtful that Mr. Burnham – a lawyer, and the architect of the 1980 Constitution which was the product of a massively rigged Referendum in 1978 and approved by a National Assembly from the 1973 elections in which the PNC implausibly won 70.1% of the votes – would consider that Guyana is a nation of laws. Mr. Lewis is expected to do no less.

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