…says Cabinet meetings illegal
Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo minced no words on Thursday as he called for the Administration to abide by the Constitution during a media engagement outside Freedom House following a meeting with the Party’s Executive Committee.
“This government has lost a no-confidence motion; the Constitution has provided the clear prescription [that] you resign on losing it. They should’ve resigned by now … [I’m calling on Government] to resign now; that is what [Article] 106 (6) is – it didn’t say “may” resign, it said “shall” resign,” Jagdeo told reporters.
Article 106 (6) states explicitly: “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.”
Jagdeo on Thursday had reiterated that he was ready to have these discussions with the Head of State. However, while Government had assured a meeting would be held between President Granger and the Opposition Leader, this was not likely until the President returns from Cuba.
“I’m prepared to meet now, [but] the President is not here … and I don’t want to be callous, so I’ll have to wait until he gets back. [But] they are just going around managing as though nothing has happened in this country. What happened last week is that the Government fell, the Government fell on a no-confidence motion,” Jagdeo asserted.
This position by the Opposition Leader comes on the heels of the coalition Administration holding a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, during which it said a report was received from the Special Legal Sub-Committee on the no-confidence motion. That report, according to a statement from Government, presented a number of recommendations and as such, Cabinet discussed various options and took certain decisions on the way forward.
However, legal luminaries have questioned the legality of Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, saying that the President and his ministers should have already resigned and not continue with “business as usual” since legally there is no Cabinet.
In fact, the Clerk of the National Assembly had pronounced that he would not review the no-confidence motion and the consequent resolution had already been circulated to all parties, including the Leader of the Opposition.
Jagdeo, during the brief interview with media operatives, had pointed out that Government is manoeuvring to delay its exit from office and hang on to power longer.
“They’re just hanging on now trying to change that, so you can see this is a desperate bunch out there,” he posited.
Furthermore, the Opposition Leader revealed that the PPP has written the Judiciary with regards to any legal actions that violate the Constitution of Guyana. He contends that the Constitution is explicit in what follows when a no-confidence motion is passed against a government.
“This morning we deposited a letter in the Chief Justice’s office to say any attempt to seek ex-parte arrangements to stay the no-confidence motion, we want to be heard on it [any motion filed by Government], but we believe that the Judiciary must not engage in any action that could violate what is so explicit in our Constitution and it’s explicit that the Government must resign or else, we’ll have a judicial coup, reversing what took place in Parliament. We cannot have that, the Constitution is clear,” Jagdeo told reporters.
While Government did not elaborate on the “various options” discussed and “certain decisions” taken, the Opposition Leader disclosed that they were privy to inside information that the coalition is looking at six options. These include arguing that there should be a 34 to 31 majority to successfully pass a no-confidence motion; and that once you’ve committed to a list of a party, then it is illegal to vote against the list.
Another option the coalition is reportedly looking at is getting someone to file a motion, making the respondents the Attorney General and the Speaker, who may then consent to a judgement that something illegal took place in the House when the motion was voted on last Friday.
However, Jagdeo posited that, “…all of these are now legal manoeuvrings to thwart the will of the people and the Constitution. And we are vigilant about this and we will not let it happen”.
Following last week’s passage of the Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion, Government vowed that it would uphold the law and abide by the Constitution.
President David Granger in a statement on Saturday last had said that he was “anxious” to engage the Opposition Leader on any concerns he may have going forward.
After having the opportunity to further reflect and research the implications of the no-confidence vote, the Prime Minister was even more specific. In his Sunday column captioned “Historic no-confidence motion” three days later, he said:
“Some may see it as Black Friday; others as Good Friday. But on Friday, December 21, 2018, a duly-elected government was defeated on a vote of no confidence that was tabled by the Opposition.
“The motion was tabled by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) which has 32 MPs in Guyana’s 65-seat National Assembly, as against 33 MPs on the APNU+AFC Coalition’s government benches.
Passage of the motion required a majority of all elected members of the House which, in effect, translated to 33 MPs. On the surface, without the requisite majority, the Opposition had no prospect of success. But when the vote was taken, a Government MP voted with the Opposition. That vote made history, as this is the first time that a government has to resign from office upon the approval of a no-confidence vote.”
In addition, Prime Minister Nagamootoo had said during an emergence press conference shortly after last Friday’s historic sitting that while the outcome was unpredictable, it must be accepted.
“The Guyanese must understand that the democratic process is sometimes unpredictable. You may have results that are not planned for … but the outcome has to be accepted… It may be a surprise to some, it may be a shock to others, it may be welcomed by some and others may rejoice over the results, but that is how democracy works and we are fully committed to the rule of law,” Nagamootoo had stated.