Govt refuses to recognise its illegality post March 21

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The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration is refusing to accept that it will become illegal today after it failed to follow the process as stipulated by the Constitution of Guyana in instances where a no-confidence motion is passed against the Government.

The refusal to accept this was posited by both Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, who were asked separately on Wednesday about the status quo of Government after today. Both Ministers claimed that Government will continue business as usual until a new Government is elected.

Harmon told Inews that there is no contemplation of a vacuum after midnight tonight. “Well I think we have made that very clear that the President (David Granger) remains the President until such time that there are new elections held and that the Government remains in office until such time that new elections are held…there is no contemplation of a vacuum and as a colleague of mine said that the President and the Ministers maintain the full panoply of responsibilities and power until such time that there are new elections,” Harmon said.

According to Harmon, persons have been trying to make a distinction that the Ministers will no longer have powers following this time frame. He however argued that the Ministries cannot be left without a head; as such, an elections process will be necessary to elect new leaders.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman shared similar sentiments when asked on Wednesday on the sidelines of a prize giving ceremony. Trotman said there is no such thing as a constitutional vacuum.

“In law, there is no such thing as a constitutional vacuum in Government or governance, we have entered into an area that none of us would’ve contemplated… I think all of us have a duty to ensure that we give effect to what is there and at the same time, we don’t slip over the edge and become an ungoverned state, so I would expect that the court would give its ruling very soon and that is even more urgent I think than any other thing nationally so that we can all be guided on the way forward,” Trotman told this publication.

However, Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “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.”

Meanwhile, 106 (7) goes on to state 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.”

However the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has said that it is only capable of conducting elections until November 2019.

Cannot lawfully exist

Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran, a former Speaker of the National Assembly, had posited that the Government cannot lawfully exist after March 21, 2019.

He said if that is the case, then anything that it might do will be illegal. He had contended that it cannot convene the National Assembly. Even if it does, anything that the National Assembly may enact will be unlawful.

He recently highlighted in his writings that the President’s failure to fix a date for elections is because the Government intends to remain in office for as long as possible.

He said this move is being supported by the majority of GECOM who have voted in support of a new registration exercise. Ramkarran argued that the Government’s functions must be limited to the implementation of existing decisions as no new ones can be made by Cabinet.

Although the acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George, SC, ruled on January 31 that the No-confidence Motion was validly passed 33-32 in the National Assembly and the Cabinet has to resign in keeping with constitutional provisions of Article 106 and 106 (7) respectively, the Government has refused to accept its fall and has filed for an appeal into the matter. Justice George had also ruled that Government will remain in office until the next President is sworn in but not the Cabinet which advises the President. The Court of Appeal will rule on the matter on Friday.

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