THE CARIBBEAN Court of Justice (CCJ) this week upheld Guyana’s no-confidence parliamentary vote, in the process clearing the way for national elections. The ruling marks the end of another chapter of Guyana’s political history, one which has often been dogged by racial strife and turmoil. Guyanese authorities must comply with the ruling to ensure there is no repeat of history in the upcoming poll.
The question of the legitimacy of the vote was litigated extensively, perhaps too much. The argument advanced by the government of David Granger that a proper majority was not acquired despite the clear 33-32 result provoked widespread derision and downright scorn. Yet, while an air of legal sophistry lingered over the proceedings, the court case demonstrated convincingly the workings or two key arms of the Guyanese state: its judiciary and, ultimately, its parliament. Now the electoral process will be put to the test. An immediate concern will be the re-constitution of the body that is to govern elections, a matter that will require the mending of fences across the political divide.
In a separate ruling, the CCJ found fatal flaws in how the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was appointed. The court concluded the most sensible approach to the process of appointing the chairman is for the leader of the opposition and Granger to communicate with each other in good faith and, perhaps, even meet to discuss eligible candidates for the position. The court further invited both sides to present arguments on how the issue should be rectified.
The GECOM chairman will have to preside over a candidate selection process that has been badly hit by questions surrounding how Charrandas Persaud’s ineligibility slipped the net for so long. The CCJ sensibly found this week that it was too late to question the MP’s standing, but the importance of proper vetting should not escape the attention of authorities especially given Guyana’s history of having coalition governments with slender majorities.
The violence and authoritarianism that has been a feature of Guyana life - specifically under Forbes Burnham - cannot be allowed to recur. Guyana’s judiciary must be stabilised through the appointment of substantive office holders in the positions of judiciary chancellor and Chief Justice. A spirit of cooperation must prevail.
It should, finally, be observed that the role played by the CCJ in all of this has been key. The court has shown its importance as a final court of appeal, an irony given this country’s failure to accede to it even as we host its headquarters