2019: A year of undemocratic impositions

Any future historical reference to 2019 would reveal, among other things, that it was a year of uncertainties. That’s in the context of the various attempts to nullify the unprecedented passage of a no-confidence motion (NCM) voted on at the end of the previous year. Many are convinced that “disregard” seems more apt to describe the year due to the actions of the APNU/AFC Government in its seeming quest to avoid the constitutionally-mandated processes following the NCM.
For the purpose of a reminder, the Constitution unambiguously states that elections must be held within 90 days following an NCM. That timeline can only be extended by the decision of a two-thirds majority of Parliament. That did not happen; hence, the Constitution should have been adhered to. Guyanese, therefore, expected fresh elections by March 2019. That also didn’t happen as the APNU/AFC, having been shocked by the NCM, resorted to the courts on the grounds that 33 is not the majority of 65 with reference to the number of Members of Parliament.
The resort to the court was despite the fact that the Speaker of the National Assembly upheld the successful passage of the NCM, having been asked by APNU/AFC to review his decision. With the matter in court, the elections could not have been held within the constitutionally-stipulated period. That immediately led to uncertainty as to when they could have been held. While the Chief Justice upheld the NCM, the Government appealed and won by a split decision.
The Opposition, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), appealed that decision to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and won on the grounds that the NCM was successfully passed, that 33 is the majority of 65 and that the Constitution must be respected with regard to the mandated timeline for fresh elections to be held –within 90 days. The elections were then expected by September 2019. Again, that didn’t happen as the APNU/AFC Government found ways to avoid constitutional demands and the ruling of the CCJ.
During that period from January, the uncertainty that grew over an election date extended to areas of business and investment. At the individual level, Guyanese held back in their spending, triggering a related chain of events that led to a further slowing down of the economy. That uncertainty also inflicted psychological torment on the citizenry as their bewilderment over the glaring disrespect for the Constitution exacerbated.
The disrespect that unfolded was not missed beyond these shores. Judging from the hearings and subsequent ruling and consequential orders by the CCJ, it seems that the Government’s arguments were fodder for humour. In that context, 2019 would be recorded as a year when Guyanese intellect may have been embarrassed by the Government’s argument in the nation’s highest court of recourse, given the historical pride in academia and legal prowess.
Significantly, in 2019, the CCJ ruled that, following the NCM, the APNU/AFC Government was reduced to that of a caretaker one. That in itself led many to question the real reason why the Government would spend millions of taxpayers’ money in seeking recourse to the court, only to be told what the Constitution has clearly enshrined with regard to the mandated processes following an NCM.
Aside from the unavoidable embarrassment with reference to capacity, many remained certain that the reason the APNU/AFC Government engaged the court with a laughable mathematical theory was to avoid holding the elections. Experts posited that with a dismal record in office and growing self-interest, the Government had lost a tremendous amount of political ground and was, therefore, fearful of being removed following a snap election. The belief is that it needed time to engage in remedial political work.
In other words, the APNU/AFC Government believably placed itself above the mandates of the Constitution and the welfare of the nation. When all that 2019 has come to represent is examined, one inevitable conclusion would be that the uncertainties precipitated by APNU/AFC’s disregard for the Constitution was deliberately imposed to extend its hold on the seat of government.
For many, that’s the highlight of 2019 and that’s how they will remember it. They remain convinced that the Government’s action resulted from it deliberately and conveniently misinterpreting the Constitution for its own benefit. In the process, the nation could not have advanced economically, given the imposed uncertainty that prevailed.
During 2019, the PPP did not relent in opposing the APNU/AFC’s action of not adhering to the Constitution, and used various means at its disposal to heighten awareness, both locally and internationally. In addition, Guyanese from all walks of life used social media and other platforms to voice their discontent. It showed that citizens will not sit by and be silent in the face of constitutional transgression.
That combination was impacting, but unable to prevent the Government from holding the elections one year after they were constitutionally due. Such action by the APNU/AFC speaks to the deliberate usurping of democracy to foster self-interest. That said, it becomes clearer that, for Guyana, 2019 would be remembered for disregard for the Constitution by APNU/AFC, imposed uncertainty and suppression of democratic processes, and not the least, a year of a farcical mathematical theory.