Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guyana has none of the checks and balances limiting the scope of executive power found in the US, UK and Canada

Guyana has none of the checks and balances limiting the scope of executive power found in the US, UK and Canada
Stabroek News letter. Wednesday May 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
With regards to the discussion on executive immunity, Guyana versus the rest of the world, it should be noted that the US president is not immune from legal sanctions for acts that violate his oath of office and the US constitution. The difference is that he or she will be held accountable in a trial in the Senate, rather than in a judicial court of law. The whole charade of attempting to justify alleged and perceived abuse of executive privilege in Guyana by drawing comparisons with first world democracies is both facetious and disingenuous. Guyana has none of the checks and balances limiting the scope of executive powers that is alive and kicking in places like the US, the UK and Canada. In addition, the independent press in pursuit of scrutinizing the performance of the government in those nations does not labour under the kind of political, legal and ethnic duress as obtains in Guyana. As a budding democracy we have a very far way to go before we should, with a straight face and settled conscience, engage in the kind of convenient comparative analysis that triggered this train of discussion.
We must not forget that in this contemporary era impeachment proceedings were initiated against two presidents of the United States of America, one a Republican and the other a Democrat. In the first one, many members of the President’s political organization prioritized their fealty to the US constitution over fealty to their shared political party and political interests.
Not even the most cockeyed pattern of reasoning can bring anyone to conclude that such a choice would be made in Guyana today. It requires an evolution in thought processes and reasoning to bring a collective to that state of being. We have not even begun the kindergarten level of enlightenment that precedes the hard lessons in such educational transformation.
The really sad thing about our situation is the apparent lack of moral and ethical wherewithal in civil society, in the opposition, in the government, to be unconditional advocates and activists in their positions on everything, from crime, to freedom of speech, to transparency in government, to an ethnic security dilemma that rises up with every random event and slaps us squarely in the face. Peter Ramsaroop ruminated in a recent column on our aversion to face up to and engage in a frank discussion about race relations. The reason for this aversion is obvious. Accepting the existence of this factor in our social and political dismemberment will entail its abandonment as an engine upon which political, social and economic aspirations can be realized. And we can’t have that, can we?
Mr Editor, our laws are unambiguous on what amounts to a crime, on the powers and duties of law enforcement, and on the rights of citizens to due process and the presumption of innocence. In no place in our laws is there a phrase or statement that applies the word ‘kill’ as a verb in explaining the powers of law enforcement to use force to apprehend suspects. While citizens have a duty to assist law enforcement in the apprehension of suspects if required so to do, there is absolutely no statute or proviso that gives us the authority to play God with the laws of the land. No government in the world is capable of creating zero crime conditions in the nations they govern. But regardless of how difficult or strenuous it becomes, no government should allow its integrity to be compromised by reacting justifiably stridently in response to one set of atrocious happenings, while giving the Nelson’s eye to others. When that becomes obvious, as it is in Guyana, large segments of the population, of sound mind and discretion I might add, will justifiably conclude that we are a society divided between the equal, and the more equal.

A government is like a parent in a household of competing and rambunctious siblings. It must be absolutely balanced and fair in terms of how it dispenses discipline. It is not enough for a parent or government to rely on its subjective judgement that it is being fair and balanced.
Its actions must manifestly convince those over whom it exercises authority that it is indeed being fair and balanced, and does not practise favouritism in its dispensation of discipline, and concern for the brood.
Yours faithfully,
Robin Williams

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