Responding to Attorney General Carl Bethel’s confirmation earlier this week of the government’s intention to call a referendum addressing term limits for prime minister, Leader of the Opposition Phillip Brave Davis said yesterday the implementation of term limits “may very well be depriving the citizens of what they desire”.
He said that the purpose of a representative democracy is for representatives to be voted in by the people and that term limitations would “thwart” this function of democracy.
“If the wish or the will of the people is for a person to serve for more than two terms in office that will, will be thwarted by an act of legislation,” Davis said.
“I think one has to recognize the history and experiences of our people. We have a representative democracy which means that we are voted in by the people. When they are dissatisfied with us, they vote us out. To legislate term limits may very well be depriving the citizens of what they desire.”
In 2014, Trinidad and Tobago passed legislation allowing for a two-term limit for a prime minister.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled in June that it was constitutional to limit the terms of presidents in Guyana. However, no mention was made to limiting the terms of the country’s prime minister
“Democracy requires the will of the people in its fullest expression to be carried out,” Davis added.
“Are you going to trump that by telling the people that if they want someone to serve as prime minister for more than two [terms] that that cannot happen by an act of Parliament?”
He also said that he had “no issue” with the proposal of fixed election dates, because it is “within the province of the government”.
“Our responsible opposition would have to be caught off guard by what is called a snapped election, because if they are appreciating the landscape, we should be able to predict and see what is happening or what is not happening to prepare themselves,” he said.
“For example, I am preparing myself for anything or any eventuality that may arise in the future in regard to what is going on in the country today.”
During the last campaign, FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis repeatedly promised that, if elected, he would push legislation to limit the tenure of the prime minister to two terms, whether consecutive or not.
His commitment to a term limit was also stated long before the election campaign.
In 2014, Minnis said, “This has always been my position, simply because everyone reaches a certain level when they would be maxed-out, suffer from brain drain and become stagnant.
“If someone remains in office for, let’s say, 20 years, they can only take you to a particular point. A maximum two terms in office would allow the generation of new ideas, new views and keep this country moving forward.”
In the Speech from the Throne in 2017, the government said, through a referendum, it would constitute an independent Electoral Commission and Boundaries Commission, introduce a term limit for prime minister and introduce a system of recall for non-performing members of Parliament.
When he spoke to reporters in July, Minnis recommitted to causing there to be a two-term limit for prime minister.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
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