Guyana is in a crisis caused by obtuse interpretations of its constitution; an obstinate administration is refusing to accept the consequences of losing a motion of no-confidence in the legislature. All Guyanese know that delay tactics are being employed to postpone mandatory General and Regional elections. This is not the first time. In our short history, we have been faced with an obstinate administration; in 2014 when faced with certain defeat (by 33 votes to 32) then President, Donald Ramotar, prorogued parliament from November 10th 2014 to February 28th, 2015. Under pressure from civil and diplomatic entities, Ramotar set a date for election seventy-one days into prorogation and announced dissolution of parliament for a later date to allow for a full period of Claims and Objections in the electoral process.
Prorogation is the formal term for the period between the end of one parliamentary session and the start of the next. In contrast to dissolution, prorogation is a personal prerogative power formally in the hands of the President. Crucially, the consent of MPs is not required.
During those seventy-one days, the utterances of representatives of various foreign nations make for interesting reading.
Fifty-nine days into prorogation (8.1.2015) the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office Minister, Tobias Ellwood said, “The UK Government views with concern the continued prorogation of Parliament by His Excellency President Ramotar and calls for its earliest possible resumption. Parliament is required by Guyana’s Constitution and the Commonwealth Charter; it provides the necessary checks and balances and enables citizens’ voices to be heard the suspension of Parliament therefore means that an essential element of a functioning democracy has been put on hold…”
Sixty seven days into prorogation (16.1.2015) Chargé d’Affaires at the US embassy in Georgetown, Bryan Hunt said “…I look forward to the announcement from President (Donald) Ramotar as to when the electoral campaign will begin and as I (said) we’re already discussing very actively with the government, with the Guyana Elections Commission, with other stakeholders as to how the United States can play a constructive role in making sure that process moves forward and we see a return to a parliamentary democracy, a parliament that is elected by the Guyanese people to move the country forward,”
Yesterday (10.7. 2019) marks 200 days since the Granger administration fell to an actual no-confidence motion; many actors have been constrained in response because of respect for the judicial process, it will be interesting to see how they react after Guyana’s final appellate forum, the Caribbean Court of Justice, delivers its Orders on Friday 12th July. In sport all one can hope is for consistency from any referee to ensure a fair and level playing field. I look forward to see how the whistle is blown in the coming weeks.
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