Civil Society condemns attempt to remove ‘no-confidence motion’ provision

Christopher Ram, Gerald Gouveia, Ramon Gaskin

Some members of civil society have condemned the intention of the current administration to remove the ‘no-confidence motion’ provision from Guyana’s Constitution.

President David Granger, at the launch of his elections campaign at D’Urban Park, informed supporters that “we are going to reform the Constitution so that that nonsense they tried for us in the last twelve months doesn’t happen again.”

More recently, Attorney General Basil Williams stated that a new APNU/AFC coalition administration would remove the ‘no-confidence motion’ clause.

Chairman of the Private Sector Commission Captain Gerald Gouveia, in an invited comment, expressed “The President had always struck me as a man who believed in democracy and who doesn’t change the rules of the game, in the middle of the game, just because it didn’t go in his favour. And so, it was quite surprising to me to hear the President say that.”

He added “I believe the No-Confidence Motion is there for a purpose and that we should respect it. I was quite surprised the President made that statement. I did not expect it from him, I’ll tell you that much.”

Meanwhile, noted political activist and lawyer, Christopher Ram also weighed in on the situation when contacted.

“…it is therefore very troubling. It would remove one layer of democracy, which would be a very backward step.”

Political analyst Ramon Gaskin also made it clear that in no uncertain terms, the no-confidence provision cannot be removed off the statutes. He noted its importance across the developed world.

“All over the world, in democratically-elected Parliaments, you have no-confidence motions. In England, Canada and in the Commonwealth, Germany, Spain and Israel. And generally speaking, it’s when Parliament does not have confidence in the Government, it cannot continue.”

“You can’t remove it. You have to keep it. It is a normal feature of democratic constitutions, this question of confidence. And if the Government does not enjoy the confidence of the Parliament, which is the elected representatives of the people, then you have to get a new coalition or go to the elections to get a new mandate.”

“If the No-Confidence Motion was removed, you’d have no way of testing if the government enjoys the confidence of the house. And from time to time, the government and a coalition do lose the confidence of the house, if one of the partners wants to leave. It happens in Israel all the time. If you don’t have that you wouldn’t be able to test it.”

“However, the problem in Guyana is when you lose the no-confidence vote, the Constitution at 106 requires you to go to elections right away, in three months. In the other constitutions, you don’t have that. In some countries, the Constitution gives you a certain amount of time to see if you can put together a new coalition and get back the confidence of the house.”

Gaskin, a former Presidential advisor, explained that in some countries if there is a case whereby the government cannot secure a new coalition that will have the confidence of the parliament, snap elections are then held.

“If you can secure the confidence of the house with this new coalition without going to elections, then you can continue. But if you cannot put together a group to secure the confidence of the house, you have to go to an election. That’s normally the position around the world.”