…Opposition Leader expects courts to accelerate hearings to prevent crisis
By Vahnu Manikchand
The much-anticipated meeting between Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger on Wednesday was said to be a fruitful engagement during which the two sides entered into agreements on several areas including jointly approaching the courts to expedite the legal proceedings filed in reference to the no-confidence resolution.
This is after the Head of State insisted that his Administration will continue to pursue the legal proceedings, which challenges the validity majority of the 33 votes that was used to pass the motion instead of an “absolute majority” of 34.
Speaking at a media briefing following the meeting, which lasted nearly 90 minutes, Jagdeo told reporters that Opposition sought clarity on whether Government would have accepted the constitutional provisions outlined in Articles 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution.
“The President said “No”, they will continue to pursue the legal route as a remedy to this situation,” the Opposition Leader revealed, while explaining however that “This legal remedy could take forever, it could take maybe a year and what happens in the meantime? We would have defeated, first of all, the purpose of the Constitution – the intent of [Article] 106 (6) and (7) – and what if at the end of the year, the court rules in our favour or two years, the court says yes it was validly upheld. So we made it clear that this legal situation, we don’t support it but that’s a reality because the Government will pursue it.”
Against this backdrop, Jagdeo disclosed that he suggested during the meeting that the court be approached to expedite these matters so that there will be no breach of the Constitution which stipulates that elections beheld within three months of the passage of a motion of no-confidence.
“That is one thing that I think we agreed on, that some approach could be made to the court jointly or through a public statement to have this matter expeditiously determined since the Government is going to pursue this remedy, it will not withdraw… So I expect if the court see that [urge to expedite from both sides] and they know this is a constitutional matter, and given what has happened in the region – we have had the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice) meeting over a weekend to resolve an issue in sever matters – we can deal with this issue continuously.”
He added that Guyana’s case is not just an ordinary matter, “this is a question of the Constitution and also the timeline imposed by the Constitution is ticking and so the need for that urgency we’re pushing for must dawn on the court themselves… and now they’re getting the Government and the Opposition saying we want you to hear it continuously, expeditiously get the hearing so that we can move it and get that out of the way,” he posited.
On December 21, 2018, the Opposition’s No-confidence Motion against Government was passed after Alliance For Change (AFC) parliamentarian took a conscience decision and voted in favour of the motion. Following the passage both the President and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had given assurances that the Administration will uphold the Constitution.
Despite this commitment, Government went ahead and unsuccessfully sought to have the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, reverse his decision on the passage of the resolution.
The Speaker acknowledged that while he does have the authority to revisit and reverse rulings in the National Assembly, he must always act in conformity with the Constitution.
As such, Dr Scotland informed the chambers that their questions must first be settled outside of Parliament and that any court ruling would guide future actions of the House.
Since the passage of the no-confidence resolution, Jagdeo has been calling for a meeting with the President to have talks on the way forward. On Wednesday, he posited that, though this engagement was held much later than anticipated it was nevertheless a good one.
For Wednesday’s highly anticipated meeting held at the Ministry of the Presidency, Jagdeo led the Opposition’s delegation which included some of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) top ranking members, most of whom are contending for the party’s position of Presidential Candidate. These include: Anil Nandlall, Dr Frank Anthony, Gail Teixeira and Irfaan Ali along with Juan Edghill, Pauline Sukhai and Odinga Lumumba.
Meanwhile, the Government’s team led by President Granger included: Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Govt Chief Whip Amna Ally, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, Attorney General Basil Williams, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan.
According to the Opposition Leader, during the meeting he raised several issues and reiterated his concerns about certain events taking place such as Government functioning as though nothing happened when in fact it should be operating in a caretaker role.
However, he disclosed that President Granger responded saying that there is nothing like caretaker responsibility in the Constitution. At that point, Jagdeo said he reminded the coalition that it was A Partnership for National Unity and AFC who introduced the concept of “caretaker responsibility” back in 2014 when they were the combined parliamentary Opposition and had tabled a no-confidence motion against the Donald Ramotar regime.
Nevertheless, in the end, a consensus was arrived on this matter.
Strong and mature actions
“The President made it clear that you cannot have a country without a Government and we agreed with this 100 per cent. And I made it clear that our job is not to stymy the functioning of the Government, and so where public order is concerned and public services etc, those have to continue,” the Opposition Leader stated.
Furthermore, the two sides also shared the view that strong and mature actions from both the Government and Opposition is important to ensure that the Constitution is respected, and that confidence is given to the public about the country’s future.
“I shared the President’s view that it was a good meeting and that both sides shared the view that we want stability in our country. We don’t want our country to go into a constitutional crisis. The President said he doesn’t want Guyana to be seen as a failed state… we don’t want the same. If we go pass the constitutional deadline that is where we’re headed. We don’t want that and we’re glad we had the meeting, although late. We will continue to work, hopefully, together to overcome some of these issues,” the Opposition Leader stated.
Meanwhile, in a short video released by the Ministry of the Presidency moments after Wednesday’s meeting, President Granger called the meeting successful. He noted that it dealt widely with the functions of the National Assembly and the Government, noting that neither of the two important institutions – the Legislative and Executive branches – could be allowed to fail.
“Both the Leader of the Opposition and the President are concerned about the situation. We would like to assure the public in Guyana that we’re working to solution which they will be satisfied with. The public interest in our paramount concern,” the Head of State asserted.