As Guyana continues to face an unprecedented political situation, Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland upheld the Constitution of Guyana when he refused Government’s request for him to reverse the passage of the No-confidence Motion, which is now a resolution.
While Government, in its bid to retain power, has entered uncharted territory with an incredible stretch to the interpretation of Article 106 (6) of the Constitution, Speaker Scotland made it pellucid that while he has the authority to revisit, review and/or reverse any of his previous ruling, his powers are guided by the supreme law of the land – the Constitution of Guyana. He acted in conformity with the Constitution and discarded the Government’s request.
According to Article 106 (6) of the Constitution, “The Cabinet, including the President, shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members in the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” Article 106 (7) states that, “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
The ongoing self-created confusion about Article 106 by the Government has been the topic on the lips of not only top legal minds but ordinary Guyanese, especially given the fact that after the Speaker declared that the motion was carried on December 21, 2018, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo conceded to its passage and stated that the Government will accept the consequences, including elections within the constitutionally stipulated 90-day period. Subsequent to his concurrence, President David Granger also accepted the verdict, which he pointed out in his New Year’s message to the nation. While the Prime Minister has now backtracked from his acceptance of defeat in his bid to retain power, and the Attorney General has announced that they are moving to challenge the decision in the court, one still hopes that the President will accept the original decision and work out a modus vivendi with the Opposition at their scheduled meeting.
Already on the ground tension is high over the matter as uncertainly of when the constitutionally mandated elections will be called.
Latin America research professor with the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, Evan Ellis in an article published by Global Americans on the peculiar situation Guyana is in, urged policymakers in Washington to help Guyana to avoid a descent into ethnic violence and chaos.
He pointed out that US Government must begin by demonstrating a sincere commitment to all of the people of the country, whether of Indian, African, or other ethnic origins. It should work through the Caribbean Community (Caricom), through the Organisation of American States (OAS), and bilaterally as well, to support the realisation and monitoring of free and fair national elections in the country.
According to Professor Ellis, the US must make clear that it expects whoever is in power in Guyana in 2019 to respect the democratic practices defined by its own Constitution.
“Particularly important is extending protection and equal treatment under the law to all of its citizens, honouring the nation’s legal commitments to commercial partners and investors, and continuing to fulfill the nation’s responsibilities to international institutions, including continued cooperation in the struggle against illicit finance, narcotics operations and other organised crime,” Professor Ellis stated.
Guyana is entering a particularly difficult period and now that the Government might decide not to heed the urging by legal luminaries to call elections but rather to move to the Judiciary in its bid to retain power, it is time that the international community assist in the upholding of Guyana’s democracy. As it stands Guyana’s democracy is at the crossroads.