GEORGETOWN, Guyana, November 10, 2014 — Amid ongoing accusations by opposition parties of widespread corruption and outrage over the failure to hold local elections since 1994, President Donald Ramotar on Monday suspended parliament to avoid a vote of no-confidence by the combined opposition, the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
A vote of no-confidence by the combined parties,which hold a one-seat majority in Guyana’s 65-member parliament, would have brought certain end to the ruling Government. It would have also been the first time in the history of independent Guyana that a vote of no confidence was brought against an administration.
Ramotar justified his action as a difficult one that is in the interest of Guyana, as he worked to “reach an agreement” with the opposition.
In remarks made today, the President said, “It is… my genuine desire to have the prorogation of the 10th Parliament ended sooner were my government and the opposition to reach an agreement for a return to normalcy. Further were these entreaties of cooperation by my government to be unsuccessful, I would then take the necessary steps for the holding of early general elections so that the democratic will of our people can be freely exercised.”
However, the opposition claimed that discussions with the government have been exhausted and none of their concerns were met.
“A constitutional crisis”: Leader of the opposition, Brigadier David Granger, said in a press statement on Monday, “President Ramotar has now single-handedly engineered a constitutional crisis. The main purposes of the ‘Proclamation’ are to allow the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.”
Granger accused the Ramotar administration of suspending parliament to avoid “debate on the opposition ‘no-confidence’ motion; prevent the holding of local government elections; prevent debate on financial excesses and impropriety; protect the reputations of his ministers from parliamentary sanction; permit the PPP’s campaign for general and regional elections to proceed; and permit the continued expenditure of state funds without parliamentary scrutiny.”
However, Ramotar’s pledge to have his “administration use that time during the period of prorogation to continue to engage the parliamentary opposition in constructive ways, in addressing the issues confronting Guyana,” has been dismissed by the opposition as a ploy to buy time to “campaign” for the next election and spend state funds.
Protests in Georgetown: The Constitution of Guyana, which is also known as the Burnham Constitution, for the former dictator of Guyana, gives the president executive power. It is the same constitution that the governing PPP party condemned while in opposition. Ramotar will have up to six months to reconvene parliament according to the constitution, which gives the president sweeping power during this intervening period. But according to former speaker of the house, Ralph Ramkarran, the PPP will soon have to return to parliament to pass the next budget.
There were peaceful protests around parliament square in Georgetown on Monday after Ramotar’s announcement. Opposition leaders, who were among the protestors, said that they are “enraged by President Donald Ramotar’s decision to prorogue Parliament,” and called it “darkest day for democracy in Guyana.” They also threatened to internationalise the issue at the OAS, CARICOM, the UN and the Union of South American Nations.
Republished with permission of Caribbean News Now, a republishing partner of the Antillean Media Group. Edits by AMG. Cover photo credit: Gordon Moseley