Constitutional way forward is Govt’s resignation

first_imgDear Editor,The constitutional stipulationsArticle 106(6) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana states ‘The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.’ Article 106(7) of the Constitution goes on to state ‘inter alia that notwithstanding the defeat of the Government, they shall remain in office and hold an election within 90 days and shall demit office when the President elected after this election takes the oath of office.’The provisions of articles 106(6) and 106(7) are clear and it is important to note that the Government accepted their responsibility to comply on the evening the motion passed (press conference with the Prime Minister and members of the A Partnership for national Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) side of the house) and the following day (statement by the President).Another constitutional question was raised by Rickford Burke in stating that the act of Persaud voting against the APNU/AFC Government renders the vote null and void as he – Persaud – was selected from the APNU/AFC list. Burke cited provisions which declared the seat of a Member of Parliament (MP) vacant when that member writes to the Speaker, the head of that particular list, that he/she no longer supports the list. Surely any rational person with basic comprehension will realise the flaw in this argument by Burke, because unless he can provide evidence that Persaud wrote such a letter prior to voting in favour of the motion, then the argument is constitutionally moot.Regarding the citizenship of Persaud, the Attorney General, Basil Williams, now highlights that: 1) Persaud held dual citizenship, 2) Exercised this citizenship in travelling, and 3) Held another citizenship from the time of his nomination, and therefore his vote is illegal, and he could not sit as a member of the National Assembly. Williams cites article 155(1)(a) for his rationale along with a case from Jamaica on an MP holding his seat while a dual citizen.In citing article 155(1)(a) to demonstrate the alleged ineligibility of Persaud to sit in the National Assembly, Williams also fails to address an equally important part of the Constitution that speaks to the allegation he is making. Specifically, article 165(2) states in part that: “…the presence or participation of any person not entitled to be present at or to participate in the proceedings of the Assembly shall not invalidate those proceedings.”In purporting that Persaud’s vote on the motion was illegal, is Williams saying then that all votes made by Persaud in the National Assembly were illegal and invalid? Williams can’t have it both ways. Either article 155(1)(a) holds preference and all votes made by Persaud are invalid (including all acts passed since the 2015 Elections and the formation of the Government on the basis of Persaud’s seat), or article 165(2) holds preference and thereby all votes taken by Persaud are valid (including all acts passed since the 2015 Elections and the formation of the Government on the basis of Persaud’s seat).In keeping with the above, if APNU/ACF believes Persaud was not eligible to be a member of the National Assembly, it is actually up to the APNU/AFC leadership to explain the following:1. If it was known that dual citizenship was held since Persaud’s nomination, why was he nominated?2. Who authorised Persaud’s name to be submitted before the election, and extracted after the election to sit in the National Assembly?3. Why was it okay for Persaud to have sat as a member and vote on the side of the APNU/AFC Government and all of a sudden it is no longer ok now that Persaud has voted for the no-confidence motion?ConclusionI am sure that in the coming days this drama will continue to unfold. I for one am not surprised by the actions of the APNU/AFC Government. The lifeline of APNU/AFC is the People’s National Congress (PNC) and this was made clear by the eloquent tirade of Volda Lawrence that it’s the PNC (not APNU) that she is loyal to when it comes to giving patronage as a Government Minister. History will show that the PNC has never had the courage to accept any result against it. Georgetown, which has been run by the PNC was consistently destroyed by the PNC in post-election violence. The attitude of the APNU parliamentarians towards Persaud after his vote is indicative of the resort to vulgar and violent means to get their way.Many people will also wait to hear what the diplomats have to say, it appears that they have now gone silent with the U-turn by the defeated Government. Why? If the prorogation of the National Assembly (a constitutional power of the President) was a danger to democracy, then surely the disregard of the passage of a no-confidence motion (a direct violation of the Constitution) must be exponentially destructive. I am sure that they don’t want it said that they favoured one side over the other to the detriment of constitutional democracy.The constitutional way forward is the resignation of the Government and elections in 90 days (less now given the motion was passed on December 21, 2018).  Anything else is a smokescreen and an unconstitutional cling to power. After all, if APNU/AFC is as popular with the electorate as they say then why worry?Cooperatively,V Hemsworthlast_img