Photo : Bharrat Jagdeo
An opinion poll being conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) on the so called Guyana “third Presidential term” issue that is before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) reveals that voters feel that elements of the incumbent APNU+AFC coalition government are seeking to influence the ruling of the (judges of the) court in order to derail the potential candidacy of Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo. If the CCJ sustains the lower court ruling affirming that a person can run for a third term, Jagdeo is likely to be the opposition PPP candidate and will defeat the incumbent PNC candidate by a landslide. The former President is the most popular political leader in Guyana and will win any free and fair election.
Oral arguments on the third term matter were heard at the court’s headquarters in Port of Spain mid March. Guyana government officials are lobbying hard to disqualify Jagdeo from being the opposition PPP’s nominee. The CCJ case will determine whether a person can serve as President for more than two terms. Bharrat Jagdeo served two terms as President and he assented to the bill on term limit. The former President said he is not interested in serving another term. But the law is being challenged by a voter who contends that it limit his Presidential choice. Guyana High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled in the challenger’s favor. The APNU+AFC government appealed the ruling at the CCJ, the final court of appeal. A judicial ruling on the matter could be handed down within weeks. Voters say the CCJ, under the leadership of Chief Justice Sir Dennis Byron, should not allow itself to be influenced by remarks coming from government officials who are trying to sway the judgment of the justices to render a ruling based on race and political bias.
The poll was conducted by respected international pollster Dr. Vishnu Bisram. NACTA has been conducting opinion polls in Guyana and around the Caribbean since 1990.
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram
Voters have told NACTA interviewers that recent statements uttered by prominent Ministers, officers and advisers of the government suggest that it is trying to influence the ruling of the CCJ on this “third term case”. They note, for example, that one Minister said, “Our people are in control of the CCJ and will rule in our favor”. It is noted that the CCJ has no judges of Indian descent since its founding in 2005. Of the seven judges hearing the third term case, four are Africans, two Whites and one Mixed.
The NACTA poll’s respondents also point out that another government Minister said he already knows the CCJ has ruled in the government’s favor because they want to keep Bharrat Jagdeo from running for President. And some of the respondents polled also point to comments by a former CCJ judge, who is an advisor to the government and to the lawyers representing the government at the CCJ, remarks suggesting that the CCJ must rule in the government favor. The general feeling among those polled is that the statements and remarks of government affiliates seem to suggest that the CCJ judges will not deliver an impartial ruling but one colored by “race” and “political bias” to keep out the popular opposition party leader from challenging the incumbent President.
A majority of the poll’s respondents are also of the view that the government’s appeal to the CCJ is politically motivated and specifically designed to prevent Jagdeo from running for a third term although he has not indicated whether he will seek another Presidential term. The poll finds that if the CCJ ruling allows Jagdeo to run for another term, and if he were to run for President, he would win an absolute majority defeating incumbent David Granger or any other APNU Presidential nominee. Jagdeo and the PPP have led APNU in recent opinion polls.
Asked if they think government Ministers and advisers are trying to influence the CCJ Judges of the case, 58% said yes with 33% saying no and 9% not sure. Queried on whether they think the CCJ will render an impartial verdict, 54% said yes with 36% saying no and 10% not sure. Asked if there should be a referendum on the third term case, 74% nodded affirmatively with 16% negatively and not sure 10%. Asked if the Burnham constitution should be replaced, 76% approve with 15% disapproving and 9% not offering an opinion.
Separately, on whether they feel the government is interfering with the judiciary, some 61% of the nation says yes with 28% saying they no and 11% not offering a view.