AFC Chairman, Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, has been discussing the implications of the December 21, 2018 vote of ‘no confidence’ which the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had laid in Parliament. Discussions have been ongoing among all parties concerned since the vote was first passed, while the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was considering the applications and appeals, and the discussions still continue as we work to find consensus, based on the Guyana Constitution.
The Opposition has since written to President David Ganger requesting the resignation of the Cabinet on the basis of their claim that Article 106 of the Constitution requires the resignation of the Cabinet and the President following the June 2019 ruling by the CCJ. President Granger has replied, saying unequivocally that the CCJ did not ‘issue orders’ to dissolve the National Assembly. The CCJ also did not mandate that a date for National and Regional Elections be fixed.
The AFC and our partners in APNU have been relying on the legal advice of local and internationally-renowned legal minds. We have searched the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana for guidance on this matter.
As much as the Opposition demands that Parliament be dissolved, that Cabinet and the President resign, and that elections are held by September 18, 2019, the Government must remain the responsible group, and not leave the state without responsible leadership for any period of time.
The Government has become a caretaker Government. However, there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that specifies formal resignation in the event of the passage of a No Confidence motion. Party Chairman Ramjattan has repeated this during his appearances on several media outings, by himself and in company with members of the Opposition.
Article 106 (7), states: “… notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months.” It also presents a conundrum, especially about who could legally receive these resignations, under what circumstances Ministers would continue to perform their legal duties, and how would the nation’s services continue to be available until elections are held.
We recall that in 2001, the courts had vitiated the 1997 elections. In her consequential orders, Mme. Justice Singh had declared the Jagdeo Government a caretaker Government. The nation was shocked at the time to hear the then President declare that he was conducting “business as usual,” and he continued to rule with full powers, and then some, until the next round of national elections the same year.
The PPP Government continued to hold Cabinet meetings, hold ministerial functions, travel around Guyana and out of the country; and represent Guyana at international forums, all while wearing the mantle of ‘caretaker Government’.
This Government is certainly abiding by the rulings of the CCJ, but the parties have been legally advised that President David Granger and his Cabinet should not resign at this time. The Constitution provides for the President and Government to remain in office until the new Government is sworn in following general elections.
The Government is relying on Article 106 (7), Constitution of Guyana, which states: “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office to hold an election within three months” or for a longer period supported by two-thirds of the national assembly.
The Opposition is relying on Article 106 (6) of the Constitution which states that the Cabinet, including the President, shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of No-Confidence. However, the National Assembly has not yet met since the June ruling by the CCJ.
Dissolving Parliament and setting the date for national elections hinges on advice still to be received from the Guyana Elections Commission about its readiness to hold such elections. It is common knowledge that the much needed House-to-House registration exercise which has begun has also put a bee in the Opposition’s bonnet, and they have approached the courts to stop it.
Guyana’s former list of electors expired on April 30, 2019, and at present, Guyana has no valid list of electors. Many persons are trying to understand why the PPP has raised such strenuous objections to putting legitimate citizens of this country on the national register, especially the hundreds of young people who attained voting age, or returned to this country since the last registration exercise was conducted in 2014.
People want to know what the PPP’s reasons are for insisting that the expired list that contained hundreds of names of deceased Guyanese, and migrated Guyanese, be retrieved from the bin, and put through a Claims and Objections exercise that has little hope of cleaning the list, removing the names of persons who can no longer cast a vote.
The PPP is challenging the House-to-House registration exercise in the High Court, but GECOM has committed itself to completing this exercise by October 20.
The AFC wishes its supporters and Guyanese in general to know that the government has accepted the June 18 ruling of the CCJ, and we understand the restrictions that have been imposed as a result. By convention, the normal business of Government will continue, but on a different level.
Government will not embark on any new policy initiatives, programmes or major infrastructural projects, but will attend to matters which are considered urgent and in the public’s interest. However, if a decision is to be made that could have an impact on the functioning of a new Government, it becomes necessary to consult with the opposition to determine the lawful steps that can be taken.
The Constitution of Guyana does not define the roles and functions of an Interim Government and as such, we must rely on guidelines used in other countries.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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