The Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, has been calling for sanctions on government officials, for over a month, to counteract the breach of the Constitution’s protocol for the passing of a no-confidence motion by the National Assembly.
He has contended that government officials have breached the Constitution in two ways. The first, he had said, is that the government is overstepping its jurisdiction by operating outside of the confines of Article 106 (7) of the Constitution, which provides that “Notwithstanding its defeat [by a motion of no confidence], the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months”.
Jagdeo said that this particular article is structured in such a way that it only permits government to stay in office to hold elections; all other actions are off the table. The second breach, he said, is that, by procrastinating on preparation for General and Regional Elections, government has caused the election date, whenever it may be, to fall after the 90-day deadline has passed.
With that deadline being today, there have been no public statements by members of the international community to indicate that they will level sanctions against the government or individuals in public office. Asked what it would take to spring them into action, Jagdeo said “I think those things come later”.
At a press conference yesterday, the Opposition Leader expressed his continued optimism that the international community will intervene. He said that the first step for the international community would be to engage the parties on the way forward, to avert a crisis, and that, “if you look at the history of those organisations, they have attempted to solve matters diplomatically before leveling sanctions. Only if there is intransigence throughout diplomatic engagements, would the community resort to more aggressive measures”. He maintains that members of the international community are unanimous that there is a Constitutional imperative, which binds the government, so he has no doubt that sanctions will follow.
Apart from that, Jagdeo has said that there is nothing else left to be done; the international community is the last resort. This is troubling, according to the Opposition Leader, “that we can’t resolve our own issues”.
“But sometimes, when you make all the good faith efforts, and you don’t have a party that is willing to engage or a party that acts in good faith – like this government, it would be necessary to involve the international community.” He said that the government started out by saying ‘we respect the passage of the no-confidence motion,’ “and now they’re coming up with all sorts of spurious reasons why it shouldn’t apply.”
Jagdeo said the opposition has exhausted its options to proffer a solution to this impasse, since meetings with government have not yielded results that the opposition favours. Further, the President has said that he needs to wait on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)’s readiness to declare a date, and Jagdeo said that GECOM’s Vincent Alexander debunked the idea that the Secretariat must “prepare to be ready” – to quote Jagdeo – before the President declares a date. The opposition leader believes that this was just another gimmick to delay elections, and that it mounts on indications that the government is not operating in good faith.
“When, in countries, people at the national level refuse to respect the Constitution, as [the government] has done in two cases, with the [unilateral] appointment of the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and in this case, how do you, at the domestic level, get them to comply, except approach the international community for sanctions?”
He said that President Granger argued for similar sanctions in 2014, when the then President Donald Ramotar prorogued and subsequently dissolved parliament to prevent a motion of no confidence from being brought against the government by the opposition. In that situation, former President Ramotar was executing a Constitutional right of the president – to prorogue the parliament as he saw fit, Jagdeo said. However, in this current impasse, there is no Constitutional protocol that allows the government to disregard a Constitutional deadline set by the passing of a no-confidence motion. Therefore, Jagdeo said, sanctions by the international community are even more necessary.
Jagdeo said that the organisations with responsibility to take action across country lines include multilateral institutions and the global community of governments. He said that there is a global good, which every government has a responsibility to work to defend, and that this is the modus operandi that he expects from the international community.
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