WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THE PPP?
One is left at times with the distinct impression that the Government is being administered by one set of individuals and the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) by another.
One case in point is the recent unwarranted attack on the Speaker of the National Assembly by the ruling party. This criticism of the Speaker is totally at odds with the more sober-headed approach that has come to characterize the Donald Ramotar Presidency.
If indeed, as is being speculated, there are forces who are absent from Government but who have a strong hold of the party machinery, it presents a serious dilemma for the Peoples Progressive Party because it would mean that the party and government could end up reading from different scripts.
In the end, the government boys will prevail over the party because the presidency is too powerful to allow for the party to dominate but the ensuing differences could seriously weaken the party.
The attack by the Peoples Progressive Party on the Speaker was totally out of order. Once the party cannot point to a violation of the Standing Orders of Parliament or to a breach of precedent in its interpretation of these Standing Orders, then the Speaker cannot be blamed for the motion of “no confidence” that was recently entertained in the house.
The motion itself lacked credibility and was ill-conceived. It ought not to have been tabled at all. It has no effect since Parliament cannot and ought not to sanction the Minister of Home Affairs. Also, the purveyors of the motion had a flawed understanding of the principle basis on which their case rested: ministerial responsibility.
But the fact that the motion was premised on a fiction and in the view of the PPP flew in the face of the constitution of Guyana does not arrogate to the Speaker the right to not entertain it on the basis of its lack of constitutionality.
The responsibility for determining the constitutionality of legislation is in the remit of the courts.
As was explained by the previous Speaker to the former Leader of the Opposition during a sitting of the National Assembly, it is not the role of the Speaker to pronounce on the constitutionality of anything. That has to be done by the courts.
The role of the Speaker is to decide whether any Bill or motion meets the requirements of the Standing Orders of Parliament and once it does, then he is obligated to entertain it.
The fact that the ruling party would launch such a scathing attack on the ability of the Speaker is most unfortunate and regrettable and it is urged that they immediately issue a retraction and apology for that most disgusting accusation leveled against the Speaker.
The PPP cannot be serious in arguing that the Speaker ought not to have entertained the motion because of its lack of constitutionality. How can a motion be unconstitutional? What will be unconstitutional is if through some law there is an attempt to give legal effect to the resolution of that motion. Further, laws are unconstitutional not motions. Motions reflect collective political opinions. They are nothing more than that. They have no legal effect and the Opposition is simply wasting the time of the Parliament with all these motions that it is bringing to the House.
The statement condemning the Speaker may, however, have been a preemptive strike. While the subject of the recent Freedom House missive was the motion against Minister Rohee, the statement from the ruling may have actually been aimed at a future target of the opposition: the impending debate on the benefits paid to the former President.
This may be why these arguments about constitutionality of motions are being raised because the ruling party knows that despite many persons seeing the attempt to debate the benefits of the former president as nothing more than vengeful and petty on the part of the opposition, this debate will eventually be brought to the House.
It is clear that the former president’s benefits cannot be cut, it can only be capped. The opposition parties know this too but since they had made the former president’s benefit’s a political campaign issue, they have to engage in their usual theatrics so as to show their supporters that they are doing something, even if it is another motion.
In the end it does not matter. The president’s benefits cannot be amended by any motion and the government knows that under our parliamentary tradition laws have to be consistent with Executive policy. Any attempt by the Opposition to railroad any law through Parliament without the support of the government will be challenged and most likely struck down by the courts.
Since the Executive will not be inclined to cut or even cap the benefits of the former President, it means that all this fuss that the ruling party is making about the Speaker is really in preparation for its defense of that petty motion and not really about the motion against the Home Affairs Minister.