Conflicts between elections laws and Constitution must be reviewed - GHRA
Says national front government Should be seriously considered

Stabroek News
January 19, 2001

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) says there must be a considered review of possible conflicts between electoral legislation and the Constitution.

Its view was expressed in the wake of the election petition ruling on Monday by Justice Claudette Singh which voided the 1997 polls on the grounds that it was unconstitutional for voters to be required to have an ID card.

In a statement on Monday following the ruling, the GHRA said that the hasty passing of legislation and constitutional amendments has made the next election vulnerable to more challenges on constitutional grounds.

In what it said was a preliminary contribution to resolving the situation, the GHRA suggested that the consequences arising from the judgement are that both the present government and parliament are invalid and the most valid representative body to return to is the previous parliament.

Among options, the GHRA said that the present government could remain in power until March 19 under a protocol like the one proposed by Alliance for Guyana, Member of Parliament Dr Rupert Roopnaraine but strengthened by the inclusion of further clauses limiting the powers of the government. The resumption of the presidency by Sam Hinds should also be considered, the GHRA said.

Alternatively, the GHRA suggested that a national front government could be put together composed of all the parties represented in the previous parliament.

It said the number of ministers should be determined, the distribution of ministers should include all parliamentary parties and the basis of distribution could be either proportionate to the seats in the last parliament or equal numbers for the two main parties - the PPP/Civic and the PNC - and one each for the WPA and TUF.

In terms of the presidency, the GHRA suggested it could be rotated on a monthly basis between ministers of all parties or the order of rotation could be according to the proportion of seats in the previous parliament in descending order.

The national front government option, the GHRA said, should be seriously considered to address other consequences arising from the judge's ruling such as how the electoral legislation can be amended to bring it in consonance with the Constitution.

With respect to the legality of decisions taken by the current Parliament, GHRA suggested that a precedent in India could be followed.

It noted that since the 1960's the Indian Courts have operated on the basis of the doctrine of "prospective invalidation" to the effect that a decision such as the January 15 High Court ruling does not render decisions already taken by the government in power invalid or illegal.

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