There is a saying, “actions must match words”, which very often is used in a political context by the electorate to politicians. Primarily it’s a general response when campaign promises are unfulfilled, and a new cycle begins. That said, Guyana is currently facing an unprecedented political situation, and which could possibly enter the realms of a constitutional crisis following the No-confidence Motion of December 21, 2018.
Following the vote, the Speaker declared that the motion was carried and within hours the Prime Minister conceded to its passage and stated that the Government will accept the consequences, including elections within the constitutionally stipulated 90-day period. The next day the President echoed similar sentiments, and which were reiterated in some way during his New Year’s message to the nation.
He affirmed that the Government “remains committed to upholding the Constitution, preserving the rule of law and guaranteeing a safe, stable, orderly and peaceful country”. Those are reassuring words and are expected from a leader and it goes a far way in tempering the prevailing sentiments of uncertainty.
However, some would argue they are mere words since the expected immediate action for the Government to resign, Parliament dissolved, and electoral process begin as mandated by the Constitution subsequent to the successful passage of the No-confidence Motion, are yet to be seen. That would have been the actions needed to uphold the Constitution and preserving the rule of law.
Given the President’s demanding schedule in seeking medical treatment, one may not be indisposed to giving him the benefit of not immediately implementing the required constitutional procedures within the context of the time elapsed thus far. However, one can also make a case that he cannot be oblivious of the preposterous and desperate mathematical arguments made by the spouse of one of his Ministers. That argument has been publicly adopted and articulated by senior members of his Cabinet including the Prime Minister who conveniently flipped from his original position.
Many have debunked the ludicrous argument the Government is now pushing that the majority of the 65-voting member in the National Assembly is suddenly and conveniently 34 and not 33. Recently, the Attorney General boldly proclaimed that he knew all along that 34 votes were needed for the successful passage of the no-confidence motion. This is contradictory to the Constitution, to the ruling of the Speaker and to what the Prime Minister said initially.
By his own arguments of 34 being the majority, the Attorney General can therefore be interpreted without ambiguity, that the Government he provides legal advice to has illegal passed budgets and other motions/acts in Parliament since 2015 given that it does have a majority of 34. In other words, in keeping with his position, the Government can not only be deemed illegal in the said context, but had no basis to make the call for a no-confidence motion against the Donald Ramotar Administration. It begs the question of how long the Attorney General has been “aware” of the majority being 34.
That smacks of “knowledge of convenience” which, with every passing day, dissipates any semblance of doubt that the Government’s current position is nothing but a deliberate and frantic attempt to unconstitutionally hold on to power. How else can it explain its submission of a brief on the consequences of the vote to the Speaker and at the same time made known its intention of going to the courts if the ruling of the said consequences is not in its favour?
That ruling is expected today after the Speaker adjourned Parliament on December 21, 2018, to subsequently deal with the consequences. What the Attorney General, on behalf of the Government, is clearly saying to all, is that it’s either their way or no way at all. That would seem to mean that if the Speaker upholds the Constitution that a simple majority of the elected members of the National Assembly, which is 33 out of 65, is all that is needed for the no-confidence motion to be carried, it would not be respected.
Nothing can be more unconstitutional, and it is counter to what the President is saying with regard to upholding the Constitution. This is where the Government’s action is not matching its words. While the President must be commended for generally saying the right things in this uncharted and political charged period, while expressing a willingness to work with the Opposition for enhanced cooperation, many expected him to forthrightly allay fears over the uncertainty that his Government may potentially not uphold and adhere to the Constitution process triggered by a no-confidence motion that has been carried.
To have that absurd mathematical argument be cast aside in the interest of the country and its people, given what our history reveals on electoral consequences, is yet to happen. As the Head of State, the buck stops with him to give genuine meaning to what he says. Anything else will continue to give credence to the belief that the utterances of some politicians are mere words with unintended actions.
The Government’s Chief Whip now famous vociferous boast of “we have a solid 33” during the no-confidence motion debate, is one of the many affirmations of that being the number for, in its case, the defeat of the motion. That itself should shut down the now convenient argument of 34 from the Government side.