By Abena Rockcliffe
Recent comments made by Caricom’s Chairman, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne relating to President Donald Ramotar’s prorogation of Parliament does not sit well with the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID).
The New York based body is of the opinion that Browne’s comments to the effect that Caricom “respects the right of Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar to prorogue Parliament” and is therefore not “too concerned” about the political crisis in Guyana, is just plain unacceptable.
President Ramotar, on November 10, prorogued Parliament to prevent the passage of the Alliance For Change (AFC) sponsored No-Confidence Motion brought against his government.
This Motion was one that garnered the support of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and once passed would have forced Ramotar’s administration to immediately call General Elections within 90 days.
Ramotar, in subsequent addresses to the nation said that he prorogued parliament to have dialogue but since that failed, he has chosen not to recall the Parliament but to call elections. He however has not yet set a date.
Prime Minister Browne was recently reported in a section of the media saying that given President Donald Ramotar’s assurances that he will make an announcement on General Elections early in 2015, the community is “not too concerned at this point” over the prorogation of the Guyanese Parliament.
He reportedly said that Caricom will “respect the President’s judgment and Constitutional right” to suspend the legislative branch of government.
Browne stated that the current political crisis in Guyana was raised by Ramotar on Monday last at a meeting of the Heads of Government during the Fifth Caricom-Cuba Summit held in Havana.
He said that Caricom was sufficiently satisfied that the President’s decision was not intended as an abuse of power and that given Ramotar’s assurances that he will call General Elections in 2015, the President’s decisions had to be respected.
Browne declined to elaborate on correspondence with the government or members of the opposition.
Incensed by Browne’s “uninformed and vacuous” comments, CGID President, Rickord Burke in a recent statement, accused Caricom of demonstrating partiality towards the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
Burke said that Browne’s comments exposed hidden support for the PPP’s repression of the elected representatives of the people.”
Burke, with reference to Browne’s comment that Ramotar’s decision was “not intended as an abuse of power,” questioned if Browne is “omniscient and can divine Ramotar’s intent.”
He added, “The Prime Minister’s comments unfortunately portray him as unschooled about the democratic ethos and indifferent to the people of Guyana, whose fundamental rights have been subjugated by the Ramotar regime.”
Burke, a former aide to Guyana’s late President Desmond Hoyte, asserted that the Parliament is constrained by the constitution to recall any government that commits material violations of the law.
He further argued that Ramotar is abusing his power to obstruct the constitutionally sanctioned impeachment process. He contended that Ramotar in effect dissolved the Parliament but is calling it a “prorogation” to avoid calling elections.
Burke opined that Ramotar and his Cabinet have lost legitimacy.
The CGID President said that regardless of what Browne claims, the result of the constitutional breakdown in Guyana is the emergence of an authoritarian State and a creeping dictator who is ruling by decree.
“It is disgraceful for Caricom to countenance a lawless dictatorship that has imposed “one party rule” in the Member State where the Community has its headquarters”, he declared.
Burke said that “if a mere expression of intent to call elections has arguably assuaged Caricom Leaders, then those Leaders are credulous and apathetic to the abridgment of the inalienable rights of the Guyanese electorate.”
This posture, he posited, is similar to the abandonment of the “Caricom Charter of Civil Societies” and the democratic process.
Burke said that that he wonders whether or not “Prime Minister Browne believes that the arbitrary suspension of his nation’s Parliament, that is designed to obstruct the people’s elected representatives from fulfilling a constitutional mandate, would be acceptable to the good people of Antigua & Barbuda.”
On Friday last, Opposition Leader, David Granger told the media that Browne’s statements suggest that Caricom is happy with what Ramotar has done. “But they (Caricom) are on a different side to the Guyanese people, because I haven’t met any Guyanese who is happy with what’s going on so maybe in the Caricom club this sort of behavior is ok.”
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