Shuman doubts Ali committed to abide by the Constitution

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Deputy Speaker and Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), Lenox Shuman said that he is not convinced that President Irfaan Ali is prepared to fully abide by the Constitution as he pointed to the many constitutional commissions that remain defunct, and constitutional offices that are still to be filled by way of substantive appointments.

During his last press conference in October, President Ali assured the nation that he will fulfill his constitutional mandate but during an interview with the Village Voice Newspaper, Shuman said President Ali, and the country’s immediate past President David Granger have demonstrated no real commitment at upholding the Constitution.

“When Presidents say I will abide by the Constitution; we clearly understand that they fully intend on not abiding by the Constitution. We saw it under David Granger, and now we are seeing it under this President,” the Deputy Speaker told this newspaper.

In a letter dated October 22, the Deputy Speaker drew the President’s attention to the need for the substantive appointments of the Chancellor, Chief Justice and Commissioner of Police, urging him to act without delay.

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“Your administration marked the completion of its first year in office on 2 August 2021, and despite calls by the previous President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sir Dennis Byron, and the current President, Justice Adrian Saunders for the confirmation of Substantive appointments of the

Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice made under the previous administration, there has been no movement on these critical appointments,” Shuman told the President. Further, he pointed out that it has been more than 15 years since the judges holding the positions of Chancellor and Chief Justice have been acting.

Close to one month after, Shuman has not received a formal response from the President. However, he said it comes as no surprise. When confronted with the issue during the press conference, President Ali assured that in keeping with his constitutional mandate, the appointments for the various constitutional offices will be done in full conformity with the Constitution.

Article 127(1) of the Constitution provides that “the Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition,” however, the President had long held on to the position that he must be recognized by Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon as the legitimate President of Guyana. However, during the press conference, he backpedaled on his earlier position, and in doing so, admitted that the Constitution sets no precondition. However, he said it would be “duplicitous” for the Opposition Leader to consult with him on constitutional appointments when he has failed to acknowledge the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government as legitimate.

Reflecting on the President’s statement, Shuman said it was “disingenuous.” “I think that in itself is a disingenuous position to say that there is no precondition but when the Leader of the Opposition meets [with him], he will show his duplicity. That is a disingenuous acknowledgement or willingness to meet,” the Deputy Speaker said.

Shuman said if the President is sincere about having meaningful dialogue or consultation with the Opposition Leader, then he should use words that foster “inclusion.”

Further, he said though Harmon may not have acknowledged President Ali verbally, he has done so in action by taking up the post of Opposition Leader. He reasoned that had the Opposition not recognised the Government, its members would have opted not to attend Parliament as was the case following the December 2018 No Confidence Motion, when the PPP/C Parliamentarians boycotted the Parliament on the grounds that the Granger Administration was “squatting” in Office due to its failure to call Elections within the prescribed three-month period.

The Deputy Speaker said aside from the substantive appointments of the Chancellor, Chief Justice and Commissioner of Police, there are a number of Commissions, which have not been constituted. “All of the Commissions that are now defunct, we don’t have substantive chairs appointed to them. In fact, none of the Commissions are functional, the Judicial Service Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission, the Public Procurement Commission yet they are handing out contracts left right and center,” Shuman lamented. He said given the current situation, he knows all too well that when President says, he will fully abide by the Constitution, he intends on doing the complete opposite.



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