No Confidence Ruling in Guyana – Gov’t and Opposition must work together
Press Release submitted by the Guyana Trades Union Congress
The confidence case before us is the first of its kind in this country. Its determination is not guided by any local precedent, clear guidelines and law as to how the nation proceeds, and as acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire in her ruling stated, “functions.” It is that ‘how’ which we must as a nation determine that is important to our stability. The Guyana Constitution places the President and Leader of the Opposition as part of the Executive (Title 5). Irrespective of the circumstance at this time, the holders of these offices will have to discharge their constitutional duties and seek to engage each other on issues pertinent to our national character and well-being.
The acting CJ upheld Article 106(6) and 106(7) of the Constitution, where the former said “[t]he Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated…” and the latter, which allows for Government to continue to function, in that “[n]otwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office….” Government is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the state and has to continue to function consistent with Article 106(7). The ruling noted, “that even though Cabinet [should have] resigned, the President and the ministers remain ministers to perform their duties and functions of office.”
Function, after a confidence vote is considered passed, is not defined or limited in the Constitution or by the guidance of any legislation or convention. The has created opportunity for varying interpretation which does not lend to universal acceptance. The Coalition Government has one perception what function means, and the Opposition clearly has its perception of what it must be. In the absence of common understanding it beholds the two sides to sit and use this opportunity presented to our nation to define the options that would guide Guyana on the way forward, now and in the future.
Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) notes the Opposition said it would protest GECOM and the Government if elections are not held “within three months.” Article 106(7), upheld by acting CJ, speaks of holding an election “within three months….or such longer period.” The latter requires “by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine,…” The extant article does not stipulate what could cause the election to be held at “such longer period” (i.e. beyond the three months).
GTUC respects the constitutional right to protest. At the same time the Opposition and Government carry the duty and responsibility to ensure we proceed through this period in constructive not destructive manner. Both sides must continue talking and working together because governance has not stopped. Either, in the interest of the people whom they serve, can initiate engagement to proceed in putting in place relevant guidelines, legislation or written convention that will establish parameters to deal with Article 106 (6) to expressly give meaning to the “functions of office” stated in the ruling of acting CJ.
The Opposition and Government must return to the table to work out their differences and modalities for treating not only with the extant article but also day-to-day governance. GTUC holds both sides equally responsible to get this right and not seek to benefit from what might be perceived as dilatory or aggressive tactics.
GTUC calls on society not to examine Article 106(6) in isolation of 106(7) but to be guided by the acting CJ’s ruling which upheld both, for the crucial element of both must not be ignored. To pay heed to one and ignore the other is to give partial justice to the CJ’s ruling, the workers and people of Guyana. GTUC maintains its concern on Rights and the Rule of Law, and the application of justice for all. This issue is not about the President or Leader of the Opposition. It is not about the respective political party’s interest. It is about we the people, the working-class people, who deserve justice in every aspect of Guyana’s governance, for this in effect impact on our collective wellbeing and our way forward as a united and productive nation.
GTUC calls on the international community, business, people, civil society and all others interested in Guyana’s well-being and the application of justice to respect the ruling that not only upheld Article 106(6) but in equal measure upheld 106(7). Individually and collectively we cannot afford to let Guyana down at this crucial juncture. In the midst of uncertainty navigating this period and the acting CJ’s ruling, society will continue to rely heavily on the media, the fourth estate, to play a pivotal role in averting undue tension by bringing credible understanding that would aid the ensuring of calm, stability and appropriate behaviours.