EYEWITNESS: Making…

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…the law an ass

In 2011, the PPP garnered a plurality of the votes – that is, more than either the PNC or the AFC which ran separately – and won the presidency because that’s what our Constitution specifies.

The PPP’s votes, however, translated into 32 seats while the PNC’s into 26 and the AFC’s into seven to fill the Assembly’s total of 65 seats. Over the next four years, the 33 PNC and AFC’s combined seats were deployed to humiliate and give the PPP hell. It wasn’t even contemplated they didn’t control the “majority” of seats.

Fast forward to 2014 when Moses Nagamootoo of the AFC moved a motion of no-confidence in the PPP Government and not wanting to be voted out, President Donald Ramotar prorogued Parliament and called elections for 2015. The PNC and AFC railed against the PPP for denying the “will of the people” represented by their “majority” in the House.

They didn’t protest that their 33 seats in that election compared with the PPP’s 32 didn’t give them a majority. Which they promptly used to pass every single piece of legislation or budget they presented.

Now fast forward to 2018, when the Charrandas Persaud “vote of conscience” on the PPP’s no-confidence call gave the “yes” 33 votes to the PNC/AFC coalition’s now reduced 32 votes. After PM Nagamootoo and the entire corps of four Vice Presidents, Ministers, the chair of the PNC, the Whip accepted the Speaker’s decision that they were voted out by a majority vote, the country was jubilant that elections would be held in three months. The next day President Granger agreed with the verdict and promised to meet the Opposition Leader after he returned from his second round of chemotherapy in Cuba. Nagamootoo even conceded in his Sunday column this was a “historic” moment and the Government would have to resign in accordance with Article 106 (6).

Then came the straw from Nigel Hughes that the Government is now desperately clutching: that legally, 33 is not a “majority” in a 65-member Assembly!!!  Your Eyewitness, who has the greatest respect for the law, and not an inconsiderable amount for Nigel Hughes, is reminded about an incident from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. When the character Mr Bumble is told he’s legally responsible for his wife’s theft of some jewellery because “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”. Mr Bumble replied “If the law supposes that … the law is an ass – a idiot. …” Surely, Nigel Hughes is making the law to be an ass.
By going down this road, the Government will still be going down. But they’ll do so also looking like ‘an ass”!

…a mockery of the Constitution

This Government has made a fetish about going after the PPP for breaking the law even as they’re determinedly and serially breaking the highest law in the land – the Constitution. Just remember the unilateral appointment of the GECOM chair in contravention of Article 161 (2) or when he sought to instruct the Public Service Commission and violated Article 226 (1).

And now comes the refusal to comply with Article 106 (6) which governs what happens after the passage of a no-confidence motion.

There is no ambiguity here: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” In Britain, which we claim to be emulating, but which doesn’t even have a written Constitution, when in 1979 311 MPs voted yes to the no-confidence motion and 311 voted no, the Labour Government accepted its defeat and didn’t whinge about mathematical esoterica.

This PNC-Government is simply reverting to its 70s illegal occupancy of office.

…of a great legal luminary

Sir Fenton Ramsahoye was not only the first native Guyanese Attorney General…but was the first to gain a PhD in law.

His passing also marks the passing of an age of great Guyanese scholarship.

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