The job of an Attorney General the world over, is to uphold the law and the constitution.
On December 31st, Attorney General Basil Williams held a press conference in which he describes how he intends to violate the very constitution he should be protecting, in order to stay in power.
In an effort to justify government’s refusal to resign and call new elections after being defeated in the no-confidence motion brought against the Granger Administration by the Leader of the Opposition, Williams described in detail, the method by which this care-taker government plans to stay in office illegally.
Editor, forgive the lengthy quotation that follows, but it is important for your readers to examine the state of mind of a man who wields enormous power in drafting laws we all must live by.
His scheme is to get the Speaker of the National Assembly to reverse his ruling on the no-confidence motion.
In response to a question during the press conference, the Attorney General said;
“The Speaker has pre-eminence when he presides in the Parliament, and he’s really only limited to ensuring that he doesn’t infringe constitutional provisions. But you will remember that we are responsible for all internal business, internal procedures etc. And in that Parliament when Mr Raphael Trotman was the Speaker, you would recall that we did all kinds of magic. We discovered a lot of things in that Parliament. And one was, that you can change anything in the rules by simply amending the super Standing Order… Standing Order 112 which we used to amend the rest… So, we can change anything. There’s a provision that you can’t bring back the same issue. All we have to do is to change the Standing Order or something like that… The Speaker has the ability to reverse his decision… The Speaker can make a ruling without the matter going to the floor as Mr Trotman did in the Rohee case when we were saying that he should not speak in Parliament in 2013. He (Speaker, Raphael Trotman) did not even come out and sit in his chair, he sent out his ruling… and you must recall that rulings of the Speaker are not debated. So that all we require, is a ruling.”
The Attorney General was not exactly truthful, as he failed to tell the press that on March 01, 2013, Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang ruled that the Motion which gagged the then Home Affairs Minister from speaking for a period of 9 months, was wholly wrong, unconstitutional and outside the power of the National Assembly.
But lets examine Standing Order 112 which deals with the suspension of Standing Orders. It reads: “Anyone or more of these Standing Orders may, after notice, or with the leave of the Speaker, be suspended on a motion made by a Member at any sitting.”
But this Standing Order cannot be activated in isolation.
Standing Order 26 (e) is unambiguous, it states: ”In order that a motion may be admissible, it shall not receive discussion of a matter which has been discussed in the same Session”, meaning five years or the next Parliament.
So, the no-confidence motion has not only been discussed, it was concluded with a vote taken and a letter sent to the Mover of the Motion, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, confirming it was carried. On December 21, 2018, the government fell.
The Speaker has no authority to go against Parliamentary procedures.
Standing Order 26 (e) prevents the Parliament from reviewing a matter that has been concluded by a vote in the same Session.
Ironically, the Speaker had used this very Standing Order 26 (e) to deny my colleague Priya Manikchand from submitting a motion calling on the government to amend decisions regarding the imposition of VAT on goods and services in the education sector as this was concluded in the House during the previous budget.
The Speaker will therefore have a difficult time going against this and the precedent he has set himself.
While Standing Orders can be suspended, the Standing Orders define how these amendments are to be tabled and automatically sent to the Standing Orders Committee and then returned to the House for a decision .
The Speaker has to make sure that this is not abused.
Obviously, knowing the Speaker to be a stickler for the rules of the House, I can’t imagine government would be so barefaced as to expect that the Hon Dr Barton Scotland would be a willing participant to this devious scheme, one that would violate the Standing Orders and the very constitutional provisions he’s there to enforce. Wouldn’t this be asking the Speaker to put himself in a very compromising position?
No doubt, government is relying on the Speaker because they cannot first go to the courts.
If that happens, the Speaker will rule that the matter is sub juice meaning that the matter is pending in court and therefore prohibited from discussion in the National Assembly. It is for this very reason that the Parking Meter Motion has not yet been debated in Parliament, because it is tied up in court for the last 2 years.
Our democracy is now under threat by a bunch of desperate people who are clutching at straws for survival. Their action will cost them dearly at the polls.
Already they have lost significant support; a severe backlash from all the unfulfilled promises made during the 2015 campaign; the firing of over 7,000 sugar workers that led to Charrandass’ conscience vote; all the scandals and corruption that have been the hallmark of this Administration; the lack of jobs; the neglect of our youth; the controversial comments made by Minister Volda Lawrence; the abuse of residents of the Hugo Chavez Centre and the ongoing corruption there; the displacement of market vendors and bus drivers; the parking meter fiasco; the decline of the our gold and foreign reserves; the controversial US$18 million Exxon Mobil signing bonus that is yet to be deposited into the consolidated fund; the hardships that Guyanese are now facing from over $60 Billion more in taxes each year; and the wasteful spending of taxpayers money on exorbitant salaries, the infamous pharmaceutic drug-bond, the D’Urban Park white elephant; procurements of billions of dollars on drugs and pharmaceuticals without going to tender yet there are severe shortages across the country; private jets and the high life for government ministers.
And I can list a lot more scandals and corruption but space would not permit me doing so.
All this is done in the name of “good governance” while average Guyanese suffer, awaiting the elusive “good life” that never comes.
In 2015, when we tried to warn the electorate that the APNU is the same PNC that bankrupted the nation during the Burnham and Hoyte era, no one listened.
And when we spoke of the super egos of Ramjattan and Nagamootoo, and their ultimate quest for power, rice farmers and cane cutters fell easy prey to their glorious empty promises.
But don’t despair, hope is just around the corner, the silver lining behind the dark cloud. The People’s Progressive Party is committed to a better life for all Guyanese regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. We’ve got the vision, the knowledge and the experience to provide quality leadership from day one. We will make this the best New Year you’ve ever had in a long time! This much I promise!
PPP/C Member of Parliament