Since the confidence (no-confidence) vote in the National Assembly on 21st December 2018, there were sharp political lines drawn for or against the Government or Opposition. I doubt if the Appeal Court’s ruling on 22nd March 2019 will help to mend fences, without determined approaches, for evidently the battle line was drawn.
The Opposition and others, including sections of the media, disagreed with: 1) the Government having a change of mind in accepting the vote; 2) proceeding to the High Court; and 3) appealing the 31st January 2019 ruling. They viewed these as delaying tactics not to hold an election “within ninety days” as per Article 106 (7) of the Guyana Constitution.
I have expressed before concern about the partial and selective interpretation of Article 106(6) and 106(7) and the disregard for our judicial processes in resolving differences. Even the right to pursue what is considered just and fair in the courts of this land, saw attempts made by influential voices to deny the government from doing so.
The Constitution, which is supreme, speaks to the three branches of government. They are the Executive, Legislative/Parliament and Judiciary each having its own unique role, though unfortunately in this instance, the judiciary appears to be considered as lesser important in role and responsibility.
When the vote was cast on 21st December, initially it was a reflection by both sides that the government had fallen, but in the aftermath as opinions were expressed, the government took a position to challenge whether the count was valid. The following week it returned to Parliament and asked the Speaker to recommit the issue based on the legal advice it acquired. The Speaker denied the request and advised the matter be taken up with the Court and he will be guided by judicial determination.
Our judicial process allows for hearing from the lower court unto the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which is the final arbiter. Any who seeks to utilise and exhaust the process is so entitled, including the Government and Opposition. Public call that an election be held on the 21st March or some agreed date without awaiting judicial determination was showing contemptuous disregard for due process. Further, the insistence, even days before the identified date, fully conscious of the improbability, suggests the motive was not to bring about resolution guided by the Constitution but to have a government removed from office.
The Appeal Court’s ruling, particularly that of the vote count where by majority decision it was determined 34 votes were needed for the no-confidence vote to be considered valid, threw the country into a tailspin. Those who were demanding an election be held in keeping with the “three months” must consider the role they were playing in attempting to circumvent the law and deny a party of interest, the government, its right to pursue the judicial process. And as sure as night follows day, since the Appeal Court’s ruling, these same persons are lining up in support of the Opposition’s right to proceed to the CCJ.
Sections of the international/diplomatic community are not excluded from the vocalised stampede and open contempt for the Judiciary, the custodian of our laws. There are times their actions aided in fermenting the divide rather seeking to create a climate for entrenching the Rule of Law and universally acceptable principles.
What they have done to this society they would not have tolerated in their countries, and to an extent, some of them have become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It appears only to be a focus on an election and who must get ‘pun tap’ and to hell with the judicial processes as an equal element in governance.
They continue to aid misconception that election is the panacea for democracy, to addressing and resolving the nation’s problems and securing good governance. The evident disregard for the judiciary as a critical pillar to ensuring good governance is of concern, for it aided in fermenting the political unease and talks about “illegal” government and “chase out” of members of the government from the communities.
The displayed lack of depth in thought or willful intent to sow seeds of discord cannot be ignored or countenanced. This society has been done a grave disservice and we must move now to repair the damage. Today is the start of a new week and we have to get up and move on.
We have a nation to build. As the judiciary is allowed to do its work, and the Opposition allowed to pursue its case to the CCJ as it said it would, the politicians must return to Parliament and get on with the governance of this nation. I refuse to believe there is not enough work to call sittings of parliament.
As we await the court’s decision, the Government and Opposition must still work to put systems in place to determine when a no confidence motion is tabled, and if passed, what should be the process to be followed. If nothing else is learnt from this exercise, it is how much work is left to be done in realising legislation to give meaning to articles in the constitution.
The issue of addressing the “political system” of this society, consistent with “inclusionary democracy” as outlined in Article 13, is yet to be given meaning. We must knock heads and hold hands together in finding a way forward where we all can live in this land, benefiting from its patrimony, in peace and harmony. The decision-making agenda and table must be broadened to include issues and concerns emanating from social partners.
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