PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, September 28, 2006 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia
The PNCR is shocked, though not surprised, at the decision of the Court in answer to the questions placed before it, with respect to the constitutionality of the proclamation by the President to summon the Parliament and the appointment of Ministers by the President prior to the extraction of their names from the list of PPP/C candidates.
The PNCR is not yet in possession of the written judgment by the Chief Justice, but reliable legal sources suggest that the effect of the judgment is:
- that it is lawful for the President of Guyana to issue a proclamation to summon the Parliament of Guyana on the basis of an Article of the Constitution (Article 69(1)) even though the provisions of that Article are breached;
- that it is quite lawful to treat, as directory and not mandatory, an entrenched provision of the constitution which requires a two-thirds majority of the Parliament to be amended;
- that all the members named on the list of candidates of a political party contesting the elections are deemed elected to Parliament once the results of the elections are declared.
The effect of this judgment can prove disastrous not only to the functioning of the Ninth Parliament but also for the future conduct and behaviour of the President and the Executive. It is obvious that this decision has serious implications for the rule of law in Guyana where the role of the judiciary is expected to be one of arbiter of the law which regulates, among other things, the functioning of the other agencies of the state and arms of government. The people of Guyana are left to draw their own conclusion about the grave implications for the future conduct of affairs in Guyana.
The People’s National Congress Reform had previously drawn attention to the flagrant breach of the constitution when Article 61 was amended by the Eighth Parliament, ignoring consequential effects that such an amendment would have on Article 69. However, the PPP/C government knowingly ignored that advice and warning. The only inference which can now be drawn is that the court has endorsed such unconstitutional, callous and irresponsible behaviour. The constitution also specifically stipulates that only four Ministers in the government of Guyana could be appointed from non elected Members of Parliament.
The question which now arises, as a result of the judgment, is whether all of the seventy candidates named on the PPP/C Top Up List and all the candidates named on the PPP/C ten Geographic Constituency Lists can be named as Ministers without being extracted from those Lists to occupy the limited number of seats, (36), which was declared by the Guyana Elections Commission to have been won by the PPP/C. Such an interpretation would make nonsense of the constitution and the Electoral Laws which limit the number of non elected Parliamentarians that can be appointed as Ministers. A more ridiculous interpretation is that all the candidates who appear on the various Lists of the Parties contesting an election can turn up at the Parliament and request the Clerk of the National Assembly to find seats for them. Since the PNCR was not a party to the proceedings just concluded before the Court, it is not in a position to appeal what it considers to be a perverse decision. That is left to the Party that originally brought the proceedings.
The PNCR filed its own action challenging the constitutionality of the proclamation issued by President Jagdeo convening Parliament on the 28 September 2006 and the appointment of Ministers before the names of persons extracted from the PPP/C lists were presented to the Guyana Elections Commission. This action is not prejudiced by the decision of the Court and the PNCR lawyers have been instructed to pursue this action with vigour and with urgency.
The PNCR will be eagerly monitoring the behaviour of the Court to observe whether the same expedition which attended the hearing of the last action before the 28th September 2006 will be applied to the action that it has brought before the Court. Until then, the PNCR will maintain that the proclamation issued by President Jagdeo under Article 69 is unconstitutional and the Ministers appointed by him, prior to their extraction from the List is also unconstitutional. We will, therefore, pursue this matter to have a determination of the issues in the highest Courts permitted by law.
The PNCR is nevertheless conscious that the effect of the present judgment is to give validity to any act done by the Ninth Parliament unless and until the judgment is struck down by a higher Court. In those circumstances, the PNCR has a responsibility to the 114,608 persons who placed confidence in the Party to represent their interests when they voted in the last elections. The PNCR will not fail to represent them while the Parliament purports to function under the umbrella of a Court imposed legality.
The PNCR has stated publicly, since 8 September 2006, that it had no intention of participating in any unconstitutionality and had refrained from submitting its list of candidates extracted for Parliament before this matter was determined. Since the effect of the judgment lends constitutionality to what will take place in Parliament, the PNCR submitted its list this morning. Obviously there is inadequate time for the necessary procedures, for the PNCR-1G MPs who have been extracted to participate in the Sitting of the Parliament today, especially after the failed efforts to have the ceremonial opening of Parliament delayed.
Among the twenty two (22) names extracted, ten (10) of the candidates are new Members of Parliament of whom three (3) are young people with ability. The PNCR has also ensured that it maintains the constitutional provisions with respect to women and has ensured that eight (8) women or 36% (thirty six percent) are among the twenty two (22) Members of Parliament extracted. In keeping with the commitment of the One Guyana platform, two (2) representatives, Mr Keith Scott and Mr Anthony Vieira, have also been extracted from the list.
The PNCR has designated Mr E Lance Carberry as its Chief Whip, for the time being, for the Ninth Parliament, Mr Carberry has written the Clerk of the National Assembly today, 28 September 2006, advising him of the seating order for the twenty two (22) PNCR-1G MPs and that the PNCR’s nominee, for the post of Deputy Speaker to the National Assembly, is Mrs Clarissa Riehl. This letter has been copied to the Representative of the PPP/C List of Candidates and Representatives of the other Parties elected to the Parliament.
When properly advised that the legal and other arrangements are in place for the PNCR MPs to occupy their seats in Parliament, the PNCR proposes to participate, under protest, in the affairs of the Parliament, until the matters before the Court are properly determined.
The PNCR maintains that the only reasonable way forward is for there to be a political solution to the present dilemma which the Parliament now faces and it would take responsible behaviour by leaders who are concerned about the affairs of the country for this to be achieved.
The PNCR has demonstrated its commitment to the peace, order and good governance of Guyana but wishes to make it clear that its present approach should not be mistaken for weakness. We, therefore, place the nation on notice that we will not stand idly by while the constitution and the laws of Guyana are disregarded and the rights of citizens trampled upon.
The PNCR will shortly make public its programme of action for the period ahead.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
28 September, 2006
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