Guyana – CJ rules Jagdeo can run again
GEORGETOWN – Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang in a High Court ruling yesterday, overruled the limitation specified in Act 17 of 2001, which purports to amend the Constitution, allowing a person elected as President only two terms in office.
The CJ’s ruling is in relation to a constitutional challenge brought by Georgetown resident Cedric Richardson, who sought the court’s interpretation of the provisions in the Constitution regarding the two-term limit for Guyana’s presidency.
The Constitutional challenge was filed last February by Attorneys-at-Law Emily Dodson and Shawn Allicock, on behalf of Richardson.
The applicant argued that Act No. 17 of 2001 which was passed by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly unconstitutionally, curtails and restricts his sovereign and democratic rights and freedom as a qualified elector to elect former President Jagdeo as the Executive President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Richardson had contended that the limit was unconstitutional and illegal. He also wanted the court to determine whether the amendment with referendum should not have been held, instead of the two-thirds majority in the National Assembly having the powers to decide to limit the number of terms.
The Chief Justice, in a written ruling yesterday noted that the purported alteration of Article 90 by the Act No. 17 of 2001, in substance and effect, undoubtedly diminishes the democratic rights of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President.
According to the ruling, the court therefore views that Act 17 of 2001 needed a referendum and is invalid and without legal effect for reason of non-compliance with Article 164 (2) (a) and/or repugnancy with Article 1 (democratic society) and Artic ale 9 (sovereignty belongs to the people) both of which Articles require a referendum for any alteration.”
The CJ further noted that “Article 1 and 9 underpin the republican commitment to the fundamental concept of popular sovereignty or imperium populi thereby safeguarding against elective despotism by the elected representatives of the people.”
Chang noted that “Act 17 of 2001, which purports to altar Article 90 of the 1980 Constitution seeks to trench upon and dilute the pre-existing democratic rights of the electorate to elect a President of their choice…. Thus, while the constitution provides for representative democracy, such representative democracy cannot entrench on popular sovereignty from which it derives and which is entrenched by the requirement of the referendum.”
Some legal analysts have opined that the CJ has erred in his interpretation of the law and noted that the decision should be appealed. Others believe that the decree is a sound judgment, which could pave the way for former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, if he so desires, to contest in another general election and possibly be elected as President for a third term.
While Jagdeo has said that he has no intention holding any jobs in Guyana including that of Head of State, he was recently named Opposition Leader and head of the Peoples’ Progressive Party /Civic, (PPP/C).
In 2000, the Guyana Constitution Reform Commission recommended a maximum of two terms in office for a President. The laws of Guyana were changed in 2001, and assented by former President Bharrat Jagdeo himself, making it clear that “A person elected as President after the year 2000 is eligible for re-election only once.”