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Guyana: Political crisis looms – APNU+AFC refuses to step down

By Dennis Adonis From Guyana Guardian

More than a week after Prime Minister Moses Nagamotoo had publicly accepted the results of a no-confidence motion that was passed against the government, and President David Granger had also accepted it by way of a written statement in which he promised an election in 90 days, the incumbent has suddenly back-tracked on their promises, and is now refusing to resign as the constitution would have required them to do.

The APNU-AFC’s term in office had come to an abrupt end last Friday, after 33 MP’s, including one from the government, had voted 33 in favour of the motion to remove them from office, while 32 remaining government MP’s voted no.

The historic motion was carried by the speaker of the House, Dr Barton Scotland, and was subsequently certified by the Clerk of the National Assembly 48hrs later, clearing the way for the government to resign and for elections to be held by the 21st March 2019.

Still in shock over the unexpected collapse of the government via the said no-confidence motion, and seemingly bending to the will of its hardline supporters, the APNU+AFC is now refusing to relinquish power, as it questions what constitutes a parliamentary majority, and the legality of the defecting vote by now-expelled government MP Charandass Persaud, who is said to be a Canadian citizen, and is also being accused of bribe-taking by the PNCR, as it relates to the vote.

As a result, the coalition is seemingly no longer in agreement with the motion, and has expressed an intention to have the already passed motion overturned by firstly asking the Speaker of the House Dr. Barton Scotland to reverse his proclamation that the motion was carried, or asked that the vote be recast, all on the basis that Persaud’s vote supposedly amounts to crossing the floor; an act that is not constitutionally permitted.

If the speaker refuses to adhere to the request, then there are indications that the APNU-AFC would most likely head to Court hoping for a stalled judicial process that can very well drag out until 2020 when elections are constitutionally due, unless the judiciary prioritize the case and have it heard swiftly by the High Court and Supreme Court respectively.

Should the case reach to the CCJ, it’s time-sensitive nature would also mean that the top regional judicial body would make a decision within a week of any proceedings.

However, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is accusing the APNU-AFC of deliberately stalling their loss in an effort to illegally cling on to power, and had made out their case to representatives of the United States, Canada, the UK, and the EU, who met with the party’s leader Bharrat Jagdeo at his Church Street office yesterday.

On the other hand, several non-governmental organizations and business groupings have been urging the coalition to respect the results of the vote, since any disruption in the required process after the vote can transcend into economic and political instability, much to the detriment of the entire population.

Even so, several legal minds with whom this publication has spoken over the past three days from both within Guyana and the UK are of the view that it is highly unlikely that any court would want to reverse such a motion, or rule contrary to the logic and intent of the motion, since this would mean that the government technically never had a parliamentary majority, thus rendering every spending and laws made by the government prior to now, unlawful.

By extension, any such contrary ruling can also constitutionally make the government illegitimate since in their own words 33 is not the majority of 32 in parliamentary proceedings.

Another retired OECS Supreme Court Justice even privately suggested that the CCJ might most likely refuse to hear the case altogether, citing judicial abuse of already established parliamentary processes governing no-confidence motions within the Commonwealth.

In their view, any other ruling outside the position already established by the speaker Dr Barton Scotland, would create a constitutional crisis of unimaginable proportion, and can lead to subsequent criminal proceedings against the entire APNU-AFC cabinet, since their budgetary spending and actions would have been done for over three years, ironically, without a parliamentary majority approval.

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