APNU/AFC fundraiser in NY overshadowed by massive protest
– Diaspora turns out in numbers, calls out Govt for breach of Constitution
A fundraiser organised by A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government in New York (NY) was completely overshadowed by more than one hundred protesters picketed the meeting, demanding elections and constitutional compliance.
Held at the Richi Rich Palace on Atlantic Avenue in Richmond Hill, NY on Sunday, the fundraiser featured Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan representing the AFC, together with Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine representing APNU, and a small group in attendance.
The Minister and entourage arrived to be greeted by the large crowd of protesters behind NYPD barricades at the door of the restaurant, holding placards that read, “Ramjattan you sold AFC to the PNC”, “Ramjattan must go” and “(Ramjattan) a disgrace to Guyanese.”
Officers from the NYPD were also present, although they left the protesters alone and merely watched from a distance.
There were even placards aimed at Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh. One such placard read, “GECOM Chairman stand by your integrity!”
The Minister and company quickly entered the building without engaging the protesters. Other guests arrived, but a few of the would-be attendees turned back upon spotting the large crowd of protesters awaiting them.
When someone attending the fundraiser did engage protesters, that ‘engagement’ took the form of an unidentified woman showing the crowd her middle finger before entering the Richi Rich Palace.
According to one protester who was interviewed by a member of the local media fraternity on the ground, the fact that Ramjattan hurriedly bypassed hundreds of the Guyanese diaspora picketing his Government just to speak to a few in the luxurious establishment spoke volumes.
“He (Ramjattan) cannot engage us because he has nothing to tell us. You look at the crowd outside? There are about 10, 15 people inside. There are hundreds of us outside. That alone tells you that the diaspora rejects the AFC and the Government,” the protester said.
“They cannot engage us. What is he going to tell us? They are illegal occupiers. When the AFC was formed, they claimed to bring fairness. They’ve joined with the PNC to bully the PPP and the Guyanese people, so there’s nothing he can tell us. He can’t talk about development, housing, finance, anything. All he can talk about is free Buju Banton tickets.”
The Minister’s failure to engage the crowd of protesters when he arrived did not sit well with the other protesters. According to one of them, Richi Rich might have in fact done itself a disservice by hosting the APNU/AFC fundraiser, since the American public would have seen the protest action against a cabinet the protesters contend is illegal.
“He (Ramjattan) has ten people inside, including the staff. The Minister came out, saw hundreds of Guyanese protesting and calling for elections now, and he going to 10 people inside including the staff of Richi Rich. This business has destroyed itself by hosting Ramjattan here today, with 10 people inside and hundreds of people outside calling for free and fair elections now. What are they doing?
Why are they dragging their foot? What is the Attorney General (Basil Williams) doing?” the passionate protester stressed.
Article 106 (6) of the Constitution 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.”
Meanwhile, Article 106 (7) goes on to say: “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
A no-confidence motion was passed against the Government since December 21 of last year. However, elections have not been held and there has been no resignation. Instead, the Government went through several levels of court litigation, unsuccessfully arguing that the no-confidence motion was not validly passed.
At the level of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), that final court of arbitration had thrown out the Government’s case and had handed down judgement saying that when the no-confidence motion was passed on December 21, 2019, Article 106 of the Constitution had immediately been activated. In addition, the court had noted that the provisions of the article were clear.
Instead of immediately starting serious preparations to hold elections in the shortest possible time, however, GECOM proceeded to carry out house-to-house registration based on the orders of unilaterally appointed former Chairman Justice (retired) James Patterson. A court case challenging this process and seeking to have GECOM comply with the constitution was in fact filed.
While that process was ultimately stopped by his successor, the decision to merge the new data from house-to-house registration with the national register of registrants and to prioritize the printing of identification cards, instead of seeking to have elections held as soon as possible, has been criticized by People’s Progressive Party (PPP) nominated GECOM commissioners as part of the Government’s delaying tactics.
Since then, the Commission, complete with Justice Singh and the six commissioners, have met with the two main political parties. At those meetings, assurances were given that GECOM would seek to hold elections this year.