The no-confidence vote (NCV) has provided fertilizer for the divisions within society. On the one side, are the government and its supporters, who are willing to discard principles for the sake of holding on to power. On the other side, there are the PPPC and its supporters, who are mainly interested in seeing the backs of the APNU+AFC coalition from government.
It is an ongoing national tragedy that principles are being prostituted, on both sides of the political divide, in the interest of power. And no party best exemplifies this political prostitution than the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) which has refused to come out with a definitive position as to the legality and justness of the NCV.
The WPA is being clever. Instead of addressing whether the government, of which it is a part, should comply with the Constitution – an issue of principle – it is more concerned with expediency – whether the government is outwitting the opposition.
By adopting such a position, the WPA is making a choice of power over principle. And in so doing, the WPA is seeding the deep rift which has developed.
It is extremely sad that not one leader or well-known supporter of APNU, the AFC or the WPA has called on the government to accept its defeat and comply with the Constitution. It is regrettable that persons endowed with intellect and conscience can, by their silence, subscribe to the view that 34 is half of 65. Or that it is okay for Charrandass’s votes in support of Budgets and Bills to count, but his vote in favour of the no-confidence motion is invalid.
The division over the NCV has been two-fold. The first is the legal aspect – there are those who contend that the vote is valid, while there are others who argue (whether they actually believe this or not is up to conjecture) that it is not. Can we truly say that an examination of the conscience of every supporter of APNU, the AFC or WPA, cannot unearth one person who is prepared to say that those arguments being advanced to invalidate the NCV are fallacious and ridiculous?
The second aspect of the division has been about the fairness of the NCV. There are those who contend that the vote is not fair because they believe that it was wrong from a moral point of view. How then should one assess this aspect of fairness?
The philosopher Aristotle perceived of justice in two senses. In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argued that justice is that which is in accordance with the law and that which is fair.
This seems to be a useful framework within which to consider the NCV. The first sense is whether the NCV is legal. Why would persons endowed with the faculties of intellect and reasoning revert from the position that the no-confident motion (NCM) was properly passed and that as a result it is lawful? Why pursue technicalities to invalidate that which is valid?
The second sense in which the NCV can be examined is in terms of whether the NCV is fair – that is, whether it falls within the parameters of distributive justice as denoted by Aristotle.
In order to decide on the fairness of the NCV, it is necessary to examine, as Aristotle would have argued, the essential purpose of the act and the principles which it trumpets.
So what is the essential purpose of a NCV? No confidence votes are simply means which allow for governments to demonstrate that they enjoy the support of the National Assembly. It is a constitutional convention that Cabinet is collectively responsible to the National Assembly. As such, a successful no-confidence motion against a government means that the Cabinet no longer enjoys this support and should resign.
There has been a counter argument to this. It states that it is wrong for a government, being duly elected by the people for a fixed term, to be forced to abridge this terms because of a successful NCV.
This line of argument stresses that parliament should not be allowed to recall a government. But what happens if a government engages in actions which are harmful to the people. What happens if government becomes tyrannical or dictatorial? What happens if it abrogates the right of the people to remove the government at elections? Should not there be a right of recall of that government outside of elections?
The right to recall by the National Assembly would seem in these instances to be both lawful and fair. Lawful in the sense that it is sanctioned by the Constitution and fair in that it provides a means by which the people, through their elected representatives, can hold their government accountable.
Justice must never become a principle of convenience. Principles must not be prostituted just to hold on to power.
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