The storyline being peddled by defenders and supporters of Mr. David Granger is that he faithfully embraces the constitution and the rule of law, that he is a man of integrity, one who, as the banner states, is honest. The reality is starkly and dangerously different.
On taking office in May 2015, Mr. Granger swore before the Chancellor, the then Chairman of the Elections Commission, and the world, that he would honour, uphold and preserve the Constitution. In fact, based on cases brought by a single law firm, from the first year of his election as President, Granger set about violating his Oath, bending the Constitution to his personal, previously unsuspected agenda. It was only the alertness of a few lawyers and the astuteness of the Courts that the Constitution and the rule of law have not so far been rendered completely meaningless.
The cases number more than three dozen. Even if we note that several of them arose out of a similar cause, that number has no parallel in Guyana or indeed in any country of the Caribbean, of constitutional violations by an executive or head of state.
Some of the cases may have arisen out of pettiness on the part of the Granger Administration, such as the wrongful dismissal of PPP/C’s Clinton Collymore, while another wrongful dismissal case brought by Ms. Anna Correia, Manager of the Amerindian Land Titling Project had deeper and more sensitive overtones. Some of the cases dealt with violations of other fundamental rights combined with abusive use of power by Granger as the cancellation of the titles to farmlands in the MMA-ADA project.
Another – Raywattie Harrychand v. Attorney General – had to do with violation of Article 139 Protection of Personal Liberty, with the Court showing its disfavour by awarding $4,375,000 as compensation to the hapless victim. Tularam Ramassar was the victim of a similar violation coupled with the additional violation of Article 142 – the right to property. He too was awarded a substantial sum by the Court, as much as a form of compensation as a show of disfavour by the Court.
An egregious case of Granger’s personal disdain for the rights of individuals and contempt for the Courts is the case of NH International Limited, in which the Caribbean Court of Appeal ordered the payment of billions of dollars to the Trinidadian company for work done under contract and awarded by an arbitral tribunal. That amount so far remains unpaid while Granger, Trump-like, used his questionable power of pardon to save the Finance Minister from being jailed.
A similar but on a lesser scale was Linda Persaud v Minister of Finance which resulted in a mandamus order against the Minister of Finance.
Then we get to the direct violations of the Constitution cases. Granger sought to remove Carvil Duncan as a member and chairman of the Public Service Commission, which too reached the Courts, and in the Red House (Cheddi Jagan Research Institute) case, the Court ordered the reversal of the decision.
But Granger did not only direct his lawlessness against identified individuals: he did it against large groups as well. In one case, Euclin Gomes successfully approached the Court to have a decision by Granger through his ministerial appointee Ms. Simona Broomes directing the Public Service Commission to cease all interviews and meetings until further notice, ruled as unconstitutional and unlawful.
A similar directive by Granger, conveyed on this occasion by his effective shadow President Joseph Harmon to the Police Service Commission, not to consider promotions of members of the Police Force, resulted in an action brought by Rajendra Jaigobin, and met the same fate in the Court.
And in a case the consequences of which are now playing out in GECOM, Granger appointed Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM in clear violation of Article 161 of the Constitution. And in my personal capacity, I had to bring an action to get Granger to honour a decision by the National Assembly on a No Confidence Motion which shortly after the vote on December 21, 2018, he had honourably announced he would respect. Honour for Granger is short-term and opportunistic.
In order to frustrate the consequence of a democratic vote, Granger paid lawyers from near and far to argue that the majority of 65 is 34, a mathematical absurdity which sycophants from our University of Guyana supported. I had to bring a similar action in relation to the House to House registration exercise supported by his PNC-R, but which was clearly unlawful as the High Court and the Court of Appeal found.
The violations by Granger and his Administration extend even further. The man and his Administration had to be compelled by the Court to bring into operation the Judicial Review Act, which is one of the most effective legislative tools available to citizens to protect from abuses by the State.
Another case of Granger and his Administration having had to be compelled by the Court to perform a statutory duty, was with respect to the constituting of the Deeds and Commercial Registry.
Some persons may be tempted to place all the blame for these cases on the Attorney General. Basil can be blamed for many things, but it is unfair to blame him for the unconstitutional acts and abuses concocted within Granger’s super Ministry, which also happens to be super inefficient.
As we mark fifty years of republican status, we need to be reminded that Granger and his Administration have violated the Constitution on more occasions than all the previous seven Presidents combined, including Forbes Burnham! Had such an achievement arisen from positive deeds, Granger would have been the greatest President of Guyana ever. As it is, he has been such a serious violator of the Constitution that he would qualify for impeachment in any normal country.
Elections are a right protected by the Constitution of Guyana and one of the pillars of Article 1 of the Constitution. Granger’s unilateral and unconstitutional attempt to impose James Patterson on the elections machinery together with his other serial violations of the Constitution, and together with his threat to reduce the power of the National Assembly and to strip persons of their citizenship, do not augur well for this country. That Granger is yet to commit to honouring the people’s vote next Monday, together with the daily machinations of GECOM, is causing serious concerns among large segments of the population.
If Granger and his Administration had spent half the time in the National Assembly passing progressive laws as it did outside in violating the Constitution and the rule of law, Guyana would have been a far better place five years after his election. Instead, democracy in Guyana is facing its most serious threat since the seventies.