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GUYANA | Opposition Leader tight-lipped on whether he will contest next presidential election

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Feb 27, CMC – The main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Monday said it had always supported term limits for the Guyana’s head of state and would await a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on the issue.

“Our view is that it is the courts that can interpret our laws and the Constitution,” said the PPP’s general secretary and former president Bharrat Jagdeo at a news conference.

Jagdeo, who said he had support legislation regarding term limits for the country’s head of state, recalled a similar situation regarding the appointment of the head of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the disagreement between President David Granger on the matter.

“We disagreed with his interpretation and we said we shall go to the courts to interpret the law and the Constitution. So this process is ongoing. The courts are now dealing with this matter,” he said.

Last week, the Guyana government said it would appeal to the Trinidad-based CCJ, a ruling by the country’s Court of Appeal that presidential term limits are unconstitutional.

By a majority two to one verdict, the three-member Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal that had been filed against a ruling by then Chief Justice, Ian Chang in July 2015.

Chang had ruled that the Constitutional Amendment, Act No. 17 of 2001, which limits presidencies to two terms is invalid because such a decision requires a referendum.

The former Chief Justice said Article No.17 of 2001 is without legal effect because it does not comply with other articles of the Constitution dealing with repugnancy, democratic society and sovereignty belonging to the people which require a referendum for any alteration.

Bharrat Jagdeo

Lawyers for the plaintiff, Cedric Richardson, had argued that the Constitution could have been amended only by a referendum rather than by at least two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly.

In his affidavit, Richardson said that the purported alteration of the Constitution by Act 17 of 2001 would curtail or delimit the electorate’s choice of Presidential candidate by rendering ineligible for the candidature any person who has been re-elected once as President.

Attorney General Basil Williams said the State would appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal to the CCJ, which is the country’s highest and final Court.

During the news conference, Jagdeo, 53, who served as Head of State here from 1999 to 2011, said the PPP had not yet decided on any candidate for president at the next elections and insisted that he was not going to encourage any discussion on his possible candidature.

“If you want to speculate go ahead and do so,” he told reporters, adding that he would only outline his position on whether or not he is interested in serving as President, when the party makes the decision “in accordance with our constitution”.

Jagdeo, an economist, said his priority now was on getting the party ready for the returning to office after it lost the election in 2015.

“The People’s Progressive Party has made no decision of who its presidential candidate will be in the next election. It has made no decision whatsoever. This will be decided at the appropriate time,” he told reporters.

“But I can promise you it will be done democratically, like we did with our Congress and the appointment of the general secretary. I am sure the party will decide who is the best candidate will be at that point in time.

“A candidate who can lead us to victory, a competent candidate who can deliver on the promises, a candidate who is visionary, a candidate who can bring people together,” he said, adding that as general secretary “my role as I see it is to prepare the party to win the next elections and I outlined already how we hope to do this.

“We working to consolidate our support because the PPP lost some support in its traditional support areas among sugar workers and rice farmers. We are working hard to consolidate our support in the Amerindian areas….and to broaden that support,” he said

Jagdeo said that the party, which is predominately an Indo-Guyanese organisation, is working on a strategy to attract Afro-Guyanese voters “to resume our work which we used to do in the past and we fell down on”.

Jagdeo told reporters that he is surprised ta the interest being shown as to whether or not he should be a candidate, reminding journalists that he has been labelled in the past as a dictator and “one of the most corrupt individuals in Guyana.

“I will make a terrible candidate,” he said, insisting that as general secretary he will not be making statements loosely every day “just to get my name in the newspapers”.

  • Countries: Guyana

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