Constitutional challengeThe Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is set to make a ruling on the Guyana Government’s appeal of the constitutional challenge to presidential term limits, along with citizenship and residency restrictions.The decision is expected to be handed down by Sir Dennis Byron, the current President of the CCJ. Sir Dennis is expected to demit office on July 3, while Justice Adrian Saunders will assume the presidency on July 4.Sir Dennis was on the panel of Judges who heard arguments by legal teams representing the State of Guyana, and the applicant, Cedric Richardson. The other Judges included: Jacob Wit, David Hayton, Winston Anderson, Rajnauth Lee, and Denys Barrow.The outcome of this matter could be a deciding factor as to whether Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo will be the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) presidential candidate in the 2020 General Elections. Jagdeo was previously elected President in 2001 and 2006.Coming out of the legal arguments from both sides was whether Article 90 of Guyana’s Constitution by way of Act 17 of 2001 infringed on Articles 1 and 9 of the said Constitution. Attorney General Basil Williams said Act 17 of 2000 was validly passed. He said the Basic Structure Doctrine was not applicable to Guyana.This court action, among other things, challenged the constitutionality of the National Assembly-sanctioned two-term limit on the presidency.Guyana’s Court of Appeal ruled in February 2017 that the constitutional amendments by Parliament to limit the number of times a person could serve as President were unconstitutional.During that February decision, then acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, was supported by Justice of Appeal BS Roy in upholding then acting Chief Justice Ian Chang’s decision that the amendments were unconstitutional.The decision which the Appellate Justices upheld signalled that an amendment to the Constitution on presidential term limits, which was enacted when the National Assembly altered Article 90 via a two-thirds vote in 2000, needs a referendum to make a final decision.This enactment was recommended by an across-the-board Constitutional Reform Committee of 2000/2001. This Committee received both Government and Opposition input, and the reform received bipartisan support.Many observers contend that if the CCJ ruled in favour of former acting Chief Justice Chang’s original ruling, it would allow for former Head of State Bharrat Jagdeo to run on the PPP/C’s ticket as presidential candidate for the 2020 elections. Despite this scenario, the Party is seemingly undecided on who would be its presidential candidate for the next elections.Jagdeo, who now serves as Opposition Leader, had in fact told the press that he was more interested in building his party’s base than being bothered by an ongoing court matter. Jagdeo declared: “When the right time comes, we will decide on a presidential candidate.”His comments followed speculation over his future, given that he formerly served as President from 1999 to 2011 and has re-entered the field of active politics.Jagdeo has stressed that he was mostly concerned about ensuring that his party was victorious at the nation’s next polls. “I made it clear that the PPP is not decided on a presidential candidate for 2020.“I’m General Secretary of the Party; I took over in January last year after the Congress, and my job as General Secretary is to work hard to transform the Party, to widen its base and prepare it to win the elections regardless of what position I serve in,” he noted.Attorney General Williams had appealed the Appeal Court’s landmark ruling in February 2017 that declared that sovereignty resides in the people and not in the Parliament; and as such, certain fundamental clauses in the Constitution that serve to define its substantive nature can be altered only by a referendum of the people.AG Williams and his colleague, Raphael Trotman, challenged the ruling in the CCJ. The decision to refer the matter to the CCJ was presided over by acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Appellate Judge Dawn Gregory and then High Court Judge Rishi Persaud.If that appeal is unsuccessful, then the voters of Guyana would have a choice of four classes of persons that were barred by Act 17 of 2001. Amended Article 90 had specified that (A) only a citizen by birth or parentage can qualify to be the President; (B) a person must be residing in Guyana on the date of nomination for election; (C) a person must have been a resident for seven years immediately before that date, and (D) citizens of Guyana who have served for two terms as President were barred from re-election.The last elections, back in 2015, saw former President Donald Ramotar serving as the PPP/C’s presidential candidate, while his running mate was diplomat Elisabeth Harper, who served as the Party’s prime ministerial candidate.