Days after the parliamentary Opposition filed a no-confidence motion against the coalition Government, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has made it clear that the Party wants its motion debated before the reading of the 2019 Budget.
The Opposition has contended that November 26 was already scheduled to be private members day, where their matters take precedence. However, the reading of the National Budget has taken over that day; with the result that another private members day must be scheduled.
Jagdeo expressed fears that attempts would be made by the Government side to get Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, to schedule the motion to be heard some time after the budget.
“I’ve heard they’ve decided when they want the motion to be debated. Now this is a matter for the Speaker, because the Speaker is head of the legislative branch. The Speaker has to make that decision. We’re hoping that that decision will be made, and the matter will be debated prior to the budget,” said.
He added that the convention is that once a no confidence motion is filed, it takes precedence over other issues. “We hope this will be done and the Speaker will stand up to any attempt of the executive, because I’ve heard they want (the debate) in December, after the budget. We’re going to be watching carefully to see how the Speaker acts in this matter,” the Opposition Leader added.
Jagdeo pointed to standard practise in democracies around the world, where no confidence motions are given priority. A poignant example of this is in Sri Lanka, where multiple no confidence votes have been held against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“If a no confidence motion is filed in the Government, you can’t proceed to a budget debate while that is hanging. What if it succeeds?” He questioned. Meanwhile, Jagdeo also noted that the reports of charges being prepared against Opposition frontbencher Irfaan Ali follow a pattern by the coalition Government.
“We expected them to continue harassing… I saw that they said they want to file charges on Pradoville again… Pradoville will surface up once again. It’s a pattern, every time they’re in a corner, Pradoville surfaces.”
Jagdeo had first announced the no-confidence motion during his press conference last week, on the heels of devastating losses in the Local Government Elections (LGE) for the coalition Government.
The next day, the scheduled sitting of the National Assembly was abruptly cancelled at Government’s request and the Opposition turned up to an empty chamber. At the half empty Parliament Chambers, he reiterated some of his expectations regarding the motion.
In a subsequent advertisement, the PPP went into further details on their reasons for filing the motion, and which were the concrete reasons for the peoples’ rejection of the People’s National Congress-led coalition. It pointed to the thousands of jobs that have been lost as a result of the closure of Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) estates.
In addition, the Party referred to the various scandals that have erupted under the Administration. They include the single sourcing of the feasibility contract for the new Demerara River crossing, the single sourcing of a drug bond and the single sourcing of drug procurement contracts.
The Party noted the numerous breaches of fiscal laws flagged by the Audit Office of Guyana in its reports, as well as the lack of accountability in the D’Urban Park project; something even the Auditor General had to launch a special probe into.
The depletion of Guyana’s gold and foreign reserves was also highlighted. In fact, a report from the Central Bank earlier this year had indicated that Guyana’s net foreign reserves, held by the Bank in foreign currency notes; has fallen to its lowest point since 2008.
Tax collection has increased dramatically; a point alluded to by the Party. This publication had reported findings from the recently released 2017 Auditor General report, which had showed that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) collected more taxes than was even anticipated.
In the End of Year Budget and Reconciliation Report, it noted that the projected revenue for 2017 was $186 billion. Instead, Government actually collected $195 billion in current revenue. This includes duties, levy, personal income and withholding taxes.
Court settlements since the coalition Government took office were also zeroed in on by the Party. The Attorney General’s Chambers has come under much criticism for not being able to secure success for several cases against the State.
Since taking office, in addition to losing cases, Government has opted to enter into out-of-court settlements. These settlements included sums to the tune of US$5.7 million; $226 million and $3.8 billion.