• 27 Jan, 2023

Parties should allow Members to choose Leadership in Guyana and Caribbean

Parties should allow Members to choose Leadership in Guyana and Caribbean

Parties should allow Members to choose Leadership in Guyana and Caribbean

The Trinidad and Tobago high court and appeal court ruled on an internal party matter of the ruling PNM last week. This intervention sets a precedent that the national judiciary has jurisdiction on constitutional issues within a political party and by extension all public bodies (including those outside of government).  — private organizations that engage in public affairs.  The legal precedent would extend over Guyana and the rest of the region.
 
The T&T judiciary accepted jurisdiction of matters within a party and ruled in the Karen Nunez-Tesheira legal matter — an application for an injunction to postpone the internal executive election. T&T political parties, unlike in Guyana, use the principle of one person one vote of its membership to choose leadership including who will be Prime Minister.  The UNC was the first to implement the principle in 2001 to choose its executives. The PNM followed years later. Guyana is yet to follow course.
 
In T&T, Nunez-Tesheira has challenged Dr Keith Rowley for leadership of the ruling party. She expressed concern over the security of ballots in a three day elections — November 26, 27, and December 4. In the past, elections were held on one day and ballots counted right after close of polling.
 
The lawyers for the electoral body of the PNM did not challenge the issue jurisdiction by the court in an internal party matter. However, lawyers, some senior councils, and activists of both the PNM and opposition UNC, when the matter was filed with the court, were of the view that the court had/has no jurisdiction in internal party matters or private organizations. I heard similar views or arguments when internal elections were held in another party in Trinidad in which the election contained serious allegations of fraud. The lawyers and activists felt the matter would be thrown out of court. I was and am of the opposite view; the court has jurisdiction in and over all registered entities in a democratic country.
 
A political party is a public entity; it is not a private organization and thus is subjected to the jurisdiction of the court. Thus, the court can interpret a party’s constitution and regulate its workings to ensure rights of its members are not violated and that people are not denied membership and justice and that every member has equal rights.
 
The court has the power to interpret the constitution and by-laws of any public entity in a democratic country. At least, it is so in the USA and other white countries that respect democratic principles. The court should and must ensure that the principle of one person one vote be enforced in all parties and that no candidate for a position in a party has an unfair advantage over another. All candidates must have equal access to all information including membership list and contacts and the principle of one person one vote must apply. The UK recently utilized the principle of one person one vote to choose the leader of the Tory Party. Anything short is unfair and a fraud. Every member of a party should be given an opportunity to choose its leader and other executives. If there is skullduggery in membership drives and or in accessing membership list and or in balloting in any party for election to a position, the aggrieved should turn to the court for justice and fair play. The court has the power to enforce the constitution.
 
In the USA, in my studies on American constitutional law, initially political parties vehemently opposed court intervention in their operations claiming the judiciary has not jurisdiction in their internal affairs which they claimed to be private. The court disagreed and ruled that it had and still has jurisdiction to interpret and enforce internal constitution and rules of operation of parties and all public organizations and businesses. Elections to choose District Leaders and all nominees for positions in every party in the USA are free and fair. Candidates are empowered to approach and historically sought redress in the court if they feel (felt) party rights are (were) violated. The same principles and individual rights apply in any democracy including Guyana. Separately, parties should move towards the principle of one person one vote in selecting leadership rather the delegate system that is subjected to manipulation and fraud.

Dr Vishnu Bisram

Dr. Vishnu Bisram is Guyanese born who received his primary and secondary education in Guyana and tertiary education in the US and India. He is a holder of multiple degrees in the natural sciences, social sciences, and education. He taught for over forty years in the US. He is a specialist on the Indian diaspora traveling globally to research and write about Indian communities.