Guyana could face serious consequences for having illegal Govt – Ramkarran
…says coalition stands to lose int’l credibility and support
The main consequences of remaining unlawfully in office after March 19, by which time elections are due, is that the coalition Government will lose international credibility and support, much as the then Government did in 2015 after it prorogued the National Assembly.
This is according to former Speaker of the National Assembly and commentator Ralph Ramkarran, who detailed certain consequences that the country could face if Government and the Opposition did not meet and agree on a plan to address this long and ongoing situation.
“Governments with resident diplomatic missions in Guyana, particularly those of Western countries, which have been taking strong positions against the usurpation of power elsewhere, will exert diplomatic pressure on the Government,” Ramkarran predicted based on the acting Chief Justice’s ruling.
He said while Governments may want to remain in communication because the Government would hold de facto power, official bilateral activity may cease. The former House Speaker said too that visas might be withdrawn. “Overseas assets could be frozen. Economic or other sanctions may be imposed. If measures are imposed, they could be implemented selectively and one at a time, or altogether,” he added.
Ramkarran, a former top-ranking member of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) also believes that the attitude of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) will also be under a high degree of scrutiny. He said that public opinion in the Region is already taking shape against the Government.
As an initial step, Caricom may well decide that from March 22 when the Government becomes illegal, it will not be invited to any meetings of Caricom or of its bodies and agencies, or Heads of Government meetings. He said it might feel that an illegal Government could not represent the people of Guyana.
“It is difficult to speculate what the Government can be called on to do in the face of its illegal existence after the due date for elections. It cannot lawfully exist so that anything that it might do will be illegal. It cannot convene the National Assembly,” Ramkarran wrote in his weekly column Conversation Tree.
He believes that even if it did, anything that the National Assembly may enact would be unlawful. “When its existence becomes unlawful, then the only lawful way forward, as indicated by Mr Christopher Ram, is for the Chancellor of the Judiciary to take office as President. But what can the Chancellor do in the absence of a lawfully existing National Assembly? We would be in unknown constitutional territory.”
Therefore, Ramkarran said the best strategy was for both Guyanese leaders to settle their own problems. He is suggesting that President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo meet and agree to a compromise date for elections. “As a first step, the life of the Government can be extended to March 31 or thereabouts, by which time the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) would be expected to rule.”
If the Chief Justice’s decision was upheld, then Ramkarran believes that an election date should be fixed for July. But if the Government succeeds, it carries on to the end of its term.
Another suggestion is if the Government could not be persuaded to act reasonably, as indicated above, the former House Speaker and Attorney is recommending that the Carter Center should intervene to mediate a solution with support from the US State Department.
“President Carter, whose credibility is respected across the political spectrum, may well be able to persuade the parties along the lines outlined above, or some alternative course which prevents a crisis from developing,” he declared.
According to Ramkarran, President Carter may also use the opportunity to persuade the parties to commit to constitutional reform to provide a framework for political parties to share executive responsibility in the governance of Guyana.
He recalled that the US President having led the way to the restoration of democracy in Guyana in 1992 always believed that this was the only long-term solution to the ethnic politics that perpetuated Guyana’s instability. He also noted that both parties have already supported such a process in one form or another.
Only last week, the Bar Council of the Guyana Bar Association said it welcomed the recent ruling of acting Chief Justice Roxane George on the legal challenge arising out of the December 21, 2018 no-confidence resolution and called for the announcement of the date for constitutionally mandated General and Regional Elections.
Chief Justice George, on January 31, issued rulings in three cases arising out of the no-confidence resolution that toppled the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government. On Monday, the released written judgments prompted the statement from the Bar Association.
The CJ ruled that the President and the Ministers could not remain in Government beyond the three months within which elections are required to be held in accordance with Article 106 (7), unless that time is enlarged by the National Assembly in accordance with the requirements of the said Article 106(7) of the Constitution.