Prime Gaston Browne Adopts Hands Off Approach to Guyana Government’s Decision to Prorogue Parliament
New York Caribbean Democracy Body Slams Caricom Chairman, Prime Minister Gaston Brown of Antigua & Barbuda, for “uninformed and vacuous” Comments On Political Crisis In Guyana
NEW YORK: The New York based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) has said the assertion by Caricom Chairman, Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua & Barbuda, that Caricom “respects the right of Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar to prorogue Parliament and is not “too concerned,” are “repugnant to the constitution and people of Guyana, and incongruous with democratic values.”
CGID President Rickord Burke in a statement Saturday slammed Brown’s comments as “uninformed and vacuous.” He accused Caricom of demonstrating partiality towards the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP). “Mr. Brown’s comments evince tacit support for the PPP’s repression of the elected representatives of the people,” the statement added.
Ramotar on November 10th abruptly suspended the nation’s Parliament to prevent the passage of a no-confidence motion against his government. The edict came as Members of Parliament (MP) assembled to debate the motion by the opposition Alliance for Change (AFC).
The combined opposition controls the 65 seat House with a majority of 33 seat; 7 from the AFC and 26 from the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU). The government is in the minority with 32 seats. All 33 opposition MPs registered their support for the motion. Hence its passage was guaranteed. Had the motion passed, the government would have had to resign immediately and call general elections within 90 days. Guyana’s presidential and parliamentary elections are separate but simultaneous. The party with a plurality of votes in the presidential elections attains the presidency and forms the government.
Ramotar, in an address to the nation on December 6th, vowed not to recall the Parliament but failed to call elections. Opposition leaders promptly branded him as a dictator who is acting extra-constitutionally to hang on to power. They demanded that the embattled President set a date for elections – a demand that Ramotar has obdurately ignored.
Stabroek News Friday quoted Prime Minister Brown as saying Caricom will “respect the President’s judgment and Constitutional right,” to suspend the legislative branch of government.” He also said Caricom will be keenly watching how the situation plays out in the coming months and should Ramotar renege on his commitment to name a date for General Elections, Caricom is committed to engaging as mediators. Brown held that Caricom was sufficiently satisfied that the Ramotar’s decision was not intended as an abuse of power and that the community was duly satisfied that the creation of an autocratic state was not the intention behind the prorogation.
Burke questioned if Brown is “omniscient and can divine Ramotar’s intent.” He added that “The Prime Minister’s comments unfortunately portray him as unschooled about the democratic ethos and indifferent to the people of Guyana, whose fundamental rights have been subjugated by the Ramotar regime.”
Burke, a former top aide to Guyana’s late President Desmond Hoyte, asserted that the Parliament is constrained by the constitution to recall any government that commits material violations of the law. He further argued that Ramotar is abusing his power to obstruct the constitutionally sanctioned impeachment process. He contended that Ramotar in effect dissolved the Parliament but is calling it a “prorogation” to avoid calling elections. He opined that Ramotar and his Cabinet have lost legitimacy, and that the constitution in the instant circumstance dictates that the government must resign and call elections within 90 days.
The CGID President said that regardless of what Brown claims the result of the constitutional breakdown Guyana is the emergence of an authoritarian State and a creeping dictator who is ruling by decree. “It is disgraceful for Caricom to countenance a lawless dictatorship that has imposed “one party rule” in the Member State where the Community has its headquarters”, he maintained.
Burke said that “if a mere expression of intent to call elections has arguably assuaged Caricom Leaders, then those Leaders are credulous and apathetic to the abridgment of the inalienable rights of a majority of Guyanese.” This posture, he posited, is analogous to abandonment of the “Caricom Charter of Civil Societies” and the democratic process.
“I am left to ponder whether or not Prime Minister Brown believes that the arbitrary suspension of his nation’s Parliament, that is designed to obstruct the people’s elected representatives from fulfilling a constitutional mandate, would be acceptable to the good people of Antigua & Barbuda,” Burke questioned.