“There cannot be a lapse in govt, a govt must be there until elections are held” – AG Williams
– CCJ recognised the decision was up to the ‘Constitutional actors’, “Our Constitution is the supreme law of the land”
─ Coalition govt retains constitutional scope of powers
– “We have to continue to govern to ensure there is no infringement”
DPI, Guyana, Sunday, July 14, 2019
Giving his opinion on the Department of Public Information’s “One on One” programme, on July 13, Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Minister Basil Williams SC., stated that in keeping with the constitution, the Coalition Government retains all of its legal powers.
This came on the heels of the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) ruling and subsequent consequential orders handed down on July 12, with regards to the December 21, vote brought by the Parliamentary Opposition.
The AG said, “We have to keep governing, lest we be overrun by narco-traffickers, those who traffic in persons, the whole question of money laundering and other serious crimes. There cannot be a lapse in [management of] government… a government must be there until the next elections are held.” He further cited the government’s provision of health and social and other public services reiterating, “we have to continue to govern to ensure there is no infringement.”
The AG noted that in handing down its ruling, the court instructed that the government remain in power to manage the affairs of the country.
“Article 106 calls for it to be on a different basis than previously existed before the December 21, vote.”
AG Williams pointed to the fact that President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders had suggested the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings was correct to refer the Canadian constitutional expert, Peter Hogg in her decision at the level of the Court of Appeal, at the hearing of the motion. Hogg, in his expertise on an interim government following a successful no-confidence motion, had stated, “the government retains it penology of powers because it has to continue to govern.”
The Legal Affairs Minister added that the opposition’s lobby, to have the CCJ instruct President David Granger to name the date of the election, failed because it was understood that the Head of State has absolute prerogative. The opposition’s push to have elections mandated in three months also fell short.
AG Williams noted that the CCJ also recognised that the decision was up to the ‘Constitutional actors’, adding that, “Our Constitution is the supreme law of the land.”
The current Constitution is based on the recommendations arising from a 1980 referendum; hence the AG reminded that it gives the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the exclusive remit to conduct elections and registration in Guyana.” The CCJ’s ruling, Minister Williams SC opined, reinforces the doctrine of the separation of powers. That is between the President and Cabinet, the judiciary and the legislature and the whole deduction is none should trample on the other or interfere with the other.”
The opposition’s move was an attempt to overstep and overreach, and interfere with the executive, the minister clarified.
“In our Constitution, the president is an executive of law. We have this hybrid Constitution, somewhat akin to the United States and France, and we have an executive president. So, it is a very important judgement and it is a great victory for our constitutional democracy.”