Former Speaker of the House and Leader of A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Ralph Ramkarran contends that the Constitution has been undermined by the occurrences of the past year, following the passing of the December 21, 2018 No Confidence Motion.
In a recent publication of his blog: Conversation Tree, Ramkarran stated, “A new constitutional principle has taken root in Guyana. It is called constitutional convenience, having displaced constitutional supremacy.”
He said that the implementation of a Constitutional provision, by the precedent recent events have set, will be disregarded if it is inconvenient to do so, adding that “Guyanese and courts will rue the day that they allowed, tolerated or facilitated this travesty in Guyana.”
A delaying strategy was invoked in the recently suspended House-to-House exercise, according to Ramkarran. The former Speaker said that GECOM, though not an arbiter of the Constitution, has been elevated to that level because several Governments have deferred to it. He added that GECOM has even now attained that capacity, as billions have been spent to develop the Secretariat.
Ramkarran said that no executive should have to wait for the Commission’s permission to set an election date, as President David Granger has declared but when it in future is restricted, it will be removed from the “arena of political conflict.”
On December 21, 2018, the No Confidence Vote was validly passed in the National Assembly when former Alliance For Change Member of Parliament, Charrandass Persaud, voted with the political opposition, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), declaring that he had lost confidence in the Government he had served for three years.
This started a slew of events, which have transcended so far beyond Constitutional precedents that even the Courts were not absolutely decisive in rectifying the issues that were caused by the inaugural No Confidence Vote and the overstepping of the Constitutional deadline for General and Regional Elections.
In this regard, Ramkarran contends that the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition has trumped the PPP.
He stated that, though the motion had surprised Government, it had shot back with a challenge of the motion, arguing that Persaud’s vote was not enough to bring down the Government. That legal proposition, that 34 votes constitute a supposedly necessary “absolute majority” instead of 33, went all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), and it failed.
But even that July ruling was not enough to effect the holding of elections within a timely fashion, as the Courts had stated it should be. In addition, the international community, Ramkarran noted, did not step in. He quipped that, “the international community’s fit of conscience about Guyana in the early 1990s has clearly not survived.”
Article 106, which details the consequences of a validly passed No Confidence Motion, was not an issue of mystery for the PPP from 1999-2000, according to Ramkarran, as the PPP had kept its full powers in 1999-2000.
The elections, which had placed the then PPP government into office had later, in 2001, been vitiated by Justice Claudette Singh, who now happens to be the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.
Ramkarran said that PPP Governments had refused to recognise the existence of the Convention of a ‘Caretaker’ Government, quipping that the provisions of Article 106, which eventually got this Government dubbed ‘Caretaker’, were inserted there to enforce same.
He stated, “The traffic of MPs across the floor had historically been only one way, from the PPP to the PNC. With this in mind, supporters of the then Opposition PNCR and their allies felt that if they were able to encourage that traffic to continue, and they were able to acquire the support of a majority of the members of the National Assembly, the PPP/C Government might not have been willing to observe the convention and resign on a successful no confidence motion or decisive defeat.”
Sure enough, the PNCR had, in recent years, started to amass allies, which ultimately seated the PPP into power in 2013 as minority government. But instead of the PPP Government being defeated by a Motion of no Confidence, which it narrowly avoided in 2014, it’s the APNU+AFC Coalition, of which the PNCR is a major stakeholder, that faced the upset last year.
Even then, Guyana is about nine months away from the passing of the motion, and six months past the Constitutional date. Elections have not been held. According to several GECOM Commissioners, the best timeline that the Secretariat can provide is March 2020.
Ramkarran contends that the date will no doubt drift down to May 2020, “when the life of the Government comes to its natural end”. He said that this will send a message to both Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and former AFC MP, Charrandass Persaud, that the efforts they’ve made to unseat the current Government earlier than it expected proved futile.
“And they must be contemplating that the future for them looks dim, with applicants for work permits and citizenships being assured by high officials that their applications are being processed.”
Ramkarran decided that the halting of the House-to-House exercise and the merger of its data with the National Register of Registrants (NRR), constitute a compromise by the Commission’s Chair. But that still has turned out to allow Government to live out its term.
“The APNU+AFC has triumphed.” Ramkarran said.
And though Jagdeo hasn’t been persuaded to grant the Government an extension by taking to Parliament, the former PPP stalwart questions whether anyone really cares.
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