THE GECOM CHAIRMAN


Since it became known that Dr. Steve Surujballi will be retiring shortly as Chairman of the Elections Commission, popularly known by the acronym, GECOM, there has been a flurry of activity in connection with the appointment of a new Chair. The Opposition has written to Minister Joe Harmon. The Leader of the Opposition announced that he would be engaging in wide consultations, which is a positive step since some of the bodies he mentioned have been critics of the PPP from time to time. Mr. Harmon indicated that the President has written the Leader of the Opposition and has triggering the process.

The process by which the Chair is appointed is provided for by the Constitution. In 1991 Dr. Cheddi Jagan, then Leader of the Opposition PPP, refused to accept the continuation in office of Chairman of GECOM, Sir Harry Bollers. President Carter persuaded President Hoyte to retire Chief Justice Bollers and asked Dr. Jagan for six names, which would be acceptable to President Hoyte, from whom he would choose one to be the new Chair. Among the persons searching for names were myself and Miles Fitzpatrick.

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FIDEL CASTRO


The world woke up to the news yesterday that Fidel Castro had died. Although his increasingly frail health and advancing years suggested that Fidel’s continued sojourn amongst us would be of limited duration, the news of his passing nevertheless delivered a shock, then sadness, that a revolutionary giant of the 20th century would no longer be a presence. It was the sheer audacity and bravery of his Moncada attack, his inspiring speech (“history will absolve me”) at his trial and the death-defying persistence of the Granma invasion, buttressed the rousing speeches but vague notions in Guyana of independence and socialism, that inspired me as a teenager.

The success of the Cuban Revolution lies not only in the social developments which it brought to Cuba by way of its world class health and education systems, exemplified by one of the highest literacy rates and one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, but by bringing an end to the second class status for Afro Cubans who were historically discriminated against and lived in dire poverty. These social benefits are available to every single Cuban.

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ON THE WARPATH AGAINST THE CONSTITUTION


Many may remember that the Judicial Service Commission (“JSC”) recommended the appointment of prominent lawyer Miles Fitzpatrick as an acting Judge in the early 1970s. Mr. Fitzpatrick then turned up at State House on the appointed day to be sworn in by the then President, His Excellency Arthur Chung. The President failed to appear, in his own house. The swearing-in was aborted and Mr. Fitzpatrick was never appointed. The Independence Constitution and its 1980 substitute provided that the President “may appoint” judges who were recommended by the JSC.

In 2001 the authority of the JSC was strengthened, and the discretion of the President was removed, by the substitution of “shall” for “may.” Article 128(1) now provides that Judges other than the Chancellor and Chief Justice are appointed by the President “who shall act in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.” Article 128(2) now provides that “the President shall act in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission and appoint a person to act in the office of Justice of Appeal or Puisne Judge, as the case may be.” These amendments were based on the recommendations of the Constitution Reform Commission (“CRC”) in 2000.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP!


Against all expectations, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. From the moment he appeared on a descending escalator in Trump Tower, his luxury building and home in Manhattan, New York, announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination, very few took the billionaire property developer seriously. Trump, whose messages on the campaign trail were of racism, sexism, xenophobia, misogyny, violence to opponents and more, exhibited all the traits of a confirmed narcissist – abusive and easy to offend.

Defying the Republican Party’s decision in 2012 that it must court the Hispanic vote after Mitt Romney’s reduced support in 2004 on account of Republican hostility to immigration reform, Trump accused Mexico of sending its ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals,’ threatened to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration and to expel the eleven million undocumented immigrants, mostly Hispanic. He also promoted Islamophobia and promised to ban Muslims from entering the US.

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GUNS AND CRIME


The Government has expressed concern about the level of gun ownership and has linked private gun ownership to the high crime rate involving the use of guns. One argument is that gun owners rent their guns to criminals. There are no statistics or other evidence that is publicly available to link lawful gun ownership to the high level of gun crimes. However, by the end of the 1980s, after strong police action against ‘kick down the door bandits,’ criminals increasingly resorted to the use of firearms. Drug trafficking (remember ‘Taps?’) increased. In 1992 the newly elected PPP/C Government increasing use of firearms licences which had been previously denied to business people and farmers.

The increase in the issue of gun licences in 1992 resulted from what was believed to be the discrimination that attended the issue of gun licences during the era of PNC Governments. From 1992 the PPP/C Government sought to redress the balance, particularly to business people and farmers. There is some evidence that this process slowed at some point, perhaps after those who were considered to have been unfairly deprived had been granted licences. For example, the PPP/C Government declined to accede to the requests for firearms by Corentyne fishermen despite the atrocities, including murders, which were committed against them over many years.

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