Speaker seeks legal advice in NCMs against Harmon, Benn & Anthony
Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir, who was reviewing No-Confidence Motions (NCMs) brought against Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon and two Government Ministers, has approached the Ministry of Legal Affairs for advice.
In a brief interview with Guyana Times, Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Issacs confirmed that he wrote to the Ministry of Legal Affairs on Monday. According to him, advise is being sought particularly in the case of the NCM against Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon.
“For example, the motion for the removal of the Leader of the Opposition involves the law, Article 184 (3). As you are aware, the Clerk is supposed to be the expert on the Standing Orders. But where the law is involved, I’m not an expert in the law.”
“So, while I’m clear on the parliamentary side, I’m not clear on the law. When the law is involved, especially in the interpretation of the law, matters must be submitted for legal advice or guidance,” Issacs explained.
Issacs explained that based on the advice from the AG Chambers, Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir will make a decision. A perusal of Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Guyana meanwhile shows that it speaks to the removal of the Opposition Leader.
It states that “Where one-third of the non-governmental members of the Assembly represent to the Speaker that the Leader of the Opposition no longer enjoys their confidence, the Speaker shall call a meeting of all non-governmental members at which it shall be decided whether the Leader of the Opposition shall be removed from office; the removal shall be effected by the votes of a majority of all the non-governmental members.”
Harmon had filed motions against Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony and Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn last week, calling for their resignations over what he claimed was their poor running of their Ministries.
The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) had contended in a statement that “the management of the spread of COVID-19 has been woeful, there has been questionable procurement of vaccines and confirmed COVID cases and deaths are spiralling out of control. Dr Anthony must bear direct responsibility for the health care crisis and disaster he has placed Guyana in, imperilling the lives and health and wellbeing of every citizen. The nation has lost confidence in Dr Anthony and we formally take action on behalf of the people of Guyana today.”
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government side, through Prime Minister, Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips, filed a No-Confidence Motion against Harmon the very next day. According to the NCM prepared by Phillips, he is demanding Harmon’s immediate resignation from the position of Leader of the Opposition.
The NCM cites several grounds for Harmon’s removal, starting with his role in the APNU/AFC’s desperate fight to stay in power after losing the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
Phillips also contended that the Opposition Leader “recklessly misinformed the public and the National Assembly” when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, its efficacy, and its acquisition by the Government.
This is a reference to Harmon’s recent campaign against the Government’s acquisition of Sputnik-V vaccines, during which he even called for a halt to the distribution of the vaccine. According to Phillips, Harmon’s actions endangered lives and increased vaccine hesitancy among an already vulnerable population.
“And Whereas the Leader of the Opposition opportunistically used the horrific murder of the Henry youth from West Coast Berbice as a means to incite ethnic disharmony. And Whereas the Leader of the Opposition has consistently denigrated the representative of the joiner parties, Mr. Lenox Shuman, Deputy Speaker, as a legitimate member of the parliamentary opposition, even going so far as to deny him holding an opposition seat on any parliamentary committee. Be It Resolved that this House expresses its lack of confidence in the Leader of the Opposition and calls for his immediate resignation,” Phillips said in his motion.
At present, the configuration of the National Assembly sees the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) with the parliamentary majority of 33 out of 65 seats. APNU/AFC, the main Opposition party, has 31 seats, while the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), in collaboration with two other parties, holds one.