Op-Ed: No-confidence motion is about Govt’s performance

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Below is an opinion piece done by former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall:

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall

On the 21st of December 2018, Guyana’s National Assembly is scheduled to debate the No-Confidence Motion filed by the Parliamentary Opposition. No doubt, it will be as historic as it will be histrionic. Historic in that it will be the first Motion of its kind being debated by a Guyanese legislature and histrionic because of the nature of politics in Guyana.

A No-Confidence Motion is a characteristic feature of the Westminster-style Constitution. This constitutional model embraces the principle of collective responsibility of Cabinet and renders Cabinet and by extension the Executive Government, collectively answerably to the Parliament and by extension the people. The cardinal cannon is that if a Government loses the confidence of the people, it loses its moral, constitutional, political and legal authority to govern.

No-Confidence Motions have been a regular feature in the UK and indeed, through the British Commonwealth. One was debated only last week in the House of Commons, another a few weeks ago in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and one earlier this year in the Lok Sabha, against Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s Government.

In Guyana, a No-Confidence Motion owes it genesis in the express language of the Constitution. Article 106 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana provides that the Cabinet is collectively responsible to the Parliament. Article 106 (6) provides that the Cabinet including the President, shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly in a confidence vote. Article 106 (7) provides that if defeated on a confidence vote, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold and election within three months and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.

A No-Confidence Motion puts the Government’s performance on trial in the debates. Significantly, the movers and supporters of such a Motion are expected to highlight the fundamental failures of the Government and in particular, to highlight evidence and incidents, which can demonstrate an expression of loss of confidence by the electorate in the Government. In this regard, the Parliamentary Opposition has in their favour the two resounding consecutive defeats of this Government at the two Local Government Elections held since the Government was elected to office in May 2015.

Most naturally, the November 2018 Local Government Elections, due to its recency, whereby the PPP gained over 60% of the votes cast would be formidable evidence of a loss of confidence in the Government by the electorate.

Contrary to the signals, which are coming from the Government, this No-Confidence Motion has nothing to do with the PPP’s record or performance in office. It is purely about the Government’s performance.

Therefore, any attempt by the Government to make the PPP’s record and performance in office the subject matter of the debate will not only be irrelevant and wrong in principle but will also be construed as the Government’s demonstrable incapacity, through incompetence, inability, or otherwise, to defend their own track record.

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