President Donald Ramotar is expected to dissolve the already prorogued parliament of Guyana in early February to clear the way for national elections.
Last week, President Ramotar announced May 11, 2015 as the date for national elections. That decision came following his decision to suspend the parliament of Guyana to avoid a no confidence motion being moved again his administration.
There have been concerns about the President’s decision to announce an election date before dissolving the parliament. Dr. Luncheon said the constitution states that the dissolving of parliament must be done three months prior to the announced date for the polls and this “does provide the drop dead date”.
At his Wednesday press conference, he added that lesser views exist on the issue, “in that it is no less than three months. In other words, you can indeed dissolve anytime, no later than before the time of polling. That is not exactly what the constitution says, it might of course be what is meant, but it isn’t exactly what the constitution says. I have accorded that and some of my colleagues agree with me, a lesser option. So you’re looking at the dissolution, three months exactly from the 11th of May….that puts you sometime around the 8th or 9th of February”.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall has been trying to defend the President’s decision.
In a statement to the Government Information Agency, Nandlall said “the constitution resides in the president a power to appoint a date for elections of members to the National Assembly. The constitution says that the president must exercise by the issuance of a proclamation, and the date which is fixed must be a date which falls within three months after the dissolution of the parliament”. He added that the language which describes the actions to be taken by the president is, in his humble opinion, not ambiguous and capable of any misinterpretation, “I do not understand how these concerns are emanating”.
But University of Guyana Law Professor and former Judge at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Professor Justice Duke Pollard is of the opinion that the President erred in his announcement of an election date without the parliament being first dissolved.
In a letter in Saturday’s Stabroek News, Justice Pollard pointed out that “the President and his learned Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs must be advised that, contrary to their delusionary understanding and the expressions of approbation by the political opposition and other well-wishers, a definitive determination of the election date within the meaning of Article 61 of the Guyana Constitution is yet to be made.”
Justice Pollard stated that according to Article 61 such a determination requires:
(a) appointment of the election date by the President by proclamation, that is, an appropriate gazettable instrument in writing;
(b) such appointment to be made only after the dissolution of Parliament and not before nor during its prorogation.
He said taking that into account, no constitutionally valid election date has been determined.
Filed: 29th January, 2015