OPINION: It is Jagdeo who is presumptuous, not the Judge!

Last Updated on Saturday, 4 May 2024, 10:50 by Writer

By Retired Rear Admiral, Dr Gary Best, LLB; LEC

At the most recent Jagdeo presser—one of his most divisive to date—this fading politician raised several issues that challenged national interests, one of which I will address at this moment: his attack on the judiciary. In my next opinion, I will address his fixation with the PNC’s performance while in office. Mind you, the same PNC that birthed him into public service and politics.

Let me preface my immediate comments below by stating the doctrine of Separation of Powers between the Executive, Legislature/Parliament and Judicial branches of government, the fundamental pillars on which democracy and good governance rests. This doctrine is embedded in the Guyana constitution. It means no branch of government is allowed to interfere/meddle with the business of the other. The Judicial branch is the branch that determines finality of disputes within the Executive, Legislature, and the Judiciary itself. It too is subject to the dictates of the constitution. In that sense, the Judiciary has earned the reputation as being the most sacred of the three branches. If the Executive fails, it is replaced by another executive. If the Legislature/Parliament fails, it is replaced by another Legislature/Parliament. However, if the Judiciary fails, democracy fails.

Speaking from the PPP’s headquarters, Jagdeo, in a condescending manner blurted at his recent presser “… I think it’s presumptuous of a judge to tell the President who he should meet and who he shouldn’t meet….” Here, he was referring to the recent judgement of the High Court in favour of the Guyana Teachers Union and against the PPP government. Strike one. Under the Guyana constitution, the President is not above the law. In fact, no one is above the law! That’s the essence of the Rule of Law. Therefore, it is Jagdeo who’s presumptuous! 

He rambled on, touting “… the President can choose at any time to meet whomever he wants to, for whatever reason, not to have a judge, any judge for that matter, telling him what he should do or shouldn’t do.” Strike two. The PPP and Jagdeo seem to forget that under the Guyana constitution any decision of the President is reviewable by the courts in Guyana. That’s called Judicial Review. That’s a power granted to the courts and to judges. The President’s actions are reviewable by judges of the Guyana courts! That’s presumptuousness on the part of Jagdeo, not the Judge. 

The attack on the judiciary continued, “… the President is more accountable than judges, judges don’t have to face the people of this country, every five years you have to go back to the people for validation, …but it’s presumptuousness to criticize the President, purely presumptuous.” Strike three. Clearly, the PPP and Jagdeo believe the President/Executive is above the other branches of government, that the Executive has authority to dictate to the other branches, and authority to interfere and meddle in the affairs of the other branches, thus eroding this fundamental pillar of democracy. However, this should not be surprising to any Guyanese. It springs from the PPP’s political philosophy of democratic centralism underpinned by domination and control.

Speaking ever so often from the PPP’s headquarters on executive, legislative and judicial issues should also remind Guyanese of the PPP’s philosophy of Party Paramountcy. A belief that it’s Party and the Executive branch of government are above the constitution. This is in plain sight most Thursdays, and a certain threat to Guyana’s democracy. Forced by the Guyana constitution and international conventions and norms to practice democracy, the PPP experiences continuous internal conflict driven by its philosophy of democratic centralism – all power must be centralized at the top and into one pair of hands. As dangerous to Guyana this philosophy is as antithetical to our democracy; nonetheless, the PPP continues with it. Hence, we witness these PPP attacks on the judiciary that are shrouded in a Putinist cloak of governance. 

Encouraging citizens to fear the judiciary and describing the judiciary as a body to fear was Jagdeo’s last line of attack. He incited, “… the third issue is the vilification of the public officers who cannot respond because they are fearful of being called before the court for contempt… if they could have responded in kind, I’m sure they would have had some choice words to say here but they can’t do so….” Strike four. Jagdeo and the PPP are obviously not in support of the courts being the final arbiter of legal disputes in a democracy. Suggesting that public officers are afraid of the court is divisive. Suggesting that public officers in the GTU case, if a choice of response was available to them, would have had some choice words (a cuss down) of the judge and is egregious and disparaging to the character of the public officers. 

Further, for Jagdeo to suggest that a cuss down would have been a response by the public officers is precisely why there is a contempt jurisdiction within the judicial branch of government for the preservation of order and good conduct. So, Jagdeo decided to speak for them, because Jagdeo wrongfully believes that he is above the law, the executive is above the law, and his Party is above the law. Clearly, the PPP and Jagdeo are delusional, not to mention, desperate. 

And rightly so. The views of most Guyanese are vastly different. Go talk to them. Most Guyanese agree that Guyana needs better government and better governance. Presumptuousness, yes. Whom? Jagdeo and his PPP.

Dr Gary Best is a Central Executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform.