Jagdeo slams caretaker Govt for illegal “Cabinet” meetings
Defying CCJ ruling
In yet another move, which was considered to be in flagrant disregard of the Constitution of Guyana, President David Granger and his Government ministers have been meeting for their weekly Cabinet sessions.
During these meetings, they were proposing legislative amendments and approving the award of multi-million-dollar contracts.
Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon hosted a post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, where he updated the press on decisions the Government has taken. But Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, during a subsequent press conference, slammed to the Government for defying the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling.
“When Harmon spoke there, he was speaking on behalf of an illegal Government … the Cabinet stood resigned … They had accepted that before, they said they were not meeting except by plenary but now they have reversed even that position,” Jagdeo outlined.
When the Government mounted its first legal challenge against the No-Confidence Motion in the High Court, Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire had ruled that the Government was defeated. The coalition accepted this ruling and stopped meeting as a Cabinet, in keeping with the Guyana Constitution.
However, now that the CCJ has handed down a ruling, upholding the High Court’s ruling, the coalition administration is refusing to comply.
According to Harmon, the CCJ, in its ruling, did not say that Cabinet should stop meeting.
“We have seen nothing in the ruling of the CCJ that says the Cabinet should not meet,” Harmon told reporters when asked about the issue.
However, the CCJ ruled that the Government was defeated by the No-Confidence Motion on December 21, 2018 – giving effect to Article 106 of the Constitution which stipulates that “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 motion of confidence.”
In fact, CCJ Justice Adrian Saunders had explained that elections ought to have already been held since March 21, 2019 – in keeping with the Constitution.
But Harmon contended that he will await on the CCJ’s consequential orders for clarity. The CCJ is expected to hand down consequential orders on July 12, outlining how the country should proceed in these circumstances.
Until then, Harmon says the Government will continue business as usual.
However, the Opposition Leader said this posture adopted by the Government is unconstitutional. He argued that the Guyana Constitution provides for the Government to stay in office three months after the Cabinet resigns only for the purpose of calling elections.
“…not to sign contracts, not to use money on ministerial perks and outreaches, not to do all the things they are doing now, all of those are illegal,” Jagdeo posited.
This is not the first act of defiance exhibited by the coalition administration with regard to the Guyana Constitution and the CCJ ruling.
In fact, on the very day of the ruling, Finance Minister Winston Jordan told an outreach in Bartica, Region Seven, that there will be House-to-House registration, regardless of what the CCJ ruled.
“And CCJ or no CCJ, they can’t tell us that we must tinker with that list to call an improper election,” Jordan had said.
The very next day, President Granger himself declared that the process he used to appoint Justice James Patterson as the GECOM Chairman was not flawed – even though the CCJ ruled that it was.
Furthermore, Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams, during a protest for House-to-House registration, claimed that the CCJ cannot tell Guyana what to do.
“GECOM is the only authoritative body that will inform the Government whether they’re ready or not for elections. CCJ cannot rule; Guyana has its own institution. Guyana is an independent country with its own independent laws”.