Rickford Burke Fires Back at PSC and Kit Nascimento
Submitted by Rickford Burke
The PSC has no competence or basis to accuse the government of breaching the constitution
Mr. Kit Nascimento, on behalf of the elitist PPP affiliated Guyana Private Sector Commission (PSC), attacked my character because I denounced the PSC’s reckless accusations that the APNU+AFC government is violating the constitution. The coalition government was elected by the people of Guyana for a five-year term. The PPP and persons in the private sector, out of avarice and a sinister and crazed desire to control Guyana’s oil revenue, attempted to depose the democratically elected government by perverting the no confidence provision of the constitution to engineer snap elections in 90 days.
The government did not roll over and play dead as they expected. It challenged their machinations in court. The period of judicial review has constrained their planned timeline. Hence they now ostentatiously bristle and condemn objection and resistance to their treasonous plot. They believe that those of us who have elucidated the illegality of the no confidence vote should not have a voice in the national dialogue and meet our contributions with contempt.
Mr. Nascimento has got the wrong Guyanese. His, or the PSC’s, view bears no supremacy over mine. Clearly, Mr. Nascimento represents elitists who think that their wealth entitles them to predominance over the will and view of a majority of Guyanese. His machinations illustrate an out of touch, elitist dinosaur struggling to transition into our twenty-first society of equals. It is therefore no wonder that they act as if their views must contend unchallenged in our polity. All Guyanese must reject their reckless audaciousness.
Mr. Nascimento stated, inter alia, that “Mr. Burke resides safely in the USA… I remember Mr. Burke, when I was a member of the Cabinet, as a young enthusiastic but radical extremist member of the PNC…” Stunning diatribe! Mr. Nascimento is an octogenarian who may no longer enjoy perfect memory. But if he wishes to hurl personal attacks, he should ensure accuracy and truth are imperatives, as his insolent, mendacious diatribe will not escape my repudiation. I’m proud of my advocacy and have always been unafraid to espouse my views on justice, equality and fairness. My views are well aligned with, and in defense of, the rights of ordinary citizens. Mr. Nascimento’s callous labeling of the views and rights of us, ordinary people, as “radical extremists” betrays the mindset of his obsolete, elitist class. Obviously, their contempt for ordinary people from a certain demographic of our citizenry was transferred from imperialists through cross-pollination.
Mr. Nascimento is a dinosaur from the imperialist Guyanese century. He could not have known me when he was a member of President Forbes Burnham’s cabinet. I was in nursery school then. However, my late politician grandfather, Ivor Remmington, tutored me in our political history. I understand that Mr. Nascimento was minister without portfolio under Burnham, and allegedly functioned out of his Washington DC home. His ministerial duties were such an abundance of nothing, and a tax payer rip-off, that he was nicknamed “minister of spare parts.” Ironically, since he referenced my residence abroad, he should tell us if moonlighting in Washington while collecting a salary from the Guyanese taxpayers, allegedly under pretense, made him “less Guyanese?”
I met Mr. Nascimento in a meeting with President Desmond Hoyte when I was 17 years old. Burnham was long dead and he was not a minister. Upon his departure, President Hoyte promptly dismissed him and advised me that he (Hoyte) had recently fired Mr. Nascimento as head of the “Guyana Public Communications Agency (GPCA) for incompetence. It is therefore no wonder that Mr. Nascimento has admittedly, and perhaps poignantly, now been reduced to a mere public relations letter writer for the elitist PSC.
My criticism of the Guyana Private Sector Commission (PSC) is valid. It reflects the views of a majority of the APNU+AFC coalition supporters. The PSC has transformed itself into the mouthpiece of the PPP. Several PSC members contacted me expressing concern about the PSC’s biased attacks against the government. They disclosed that the PSC leadership has deliberately ensconced itself with lawyers from the Bar Council of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), who are opposed to the government.
The PPP/PSC has repeatedly, falsely accused the government of violating the constitution and the order of the Chief Justice. It demonstrates contempt and disregard for the government’s views, positions and rights. The PPP/PSC does not have a monopoly on interpretation of the Guyana constitution. Consequently, the government or people have no obligation to accept their positions. In fact we are equally entitled to contemptuously dismiss the PSC’s views. Frankly, who the hell do the PPP/PSC and Kit Nascimento think they are to issue vacuous and ill-informed condemnations of our government, then express sanctimonious, arrogant objections when government supporters respond?
The government has not breached the constitution. Here are the facts. There was a confidence vote (NCV) against the one seat majority government in the 65 seat National Assembly on December 21, 2018. The government has 33 seats. The opposition PPP has 32. The NCV received 33 votes for and 32 against. Article 106 (6) of the constitution mandates that “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members in the National Assembly on a vote of confidence. Article 106 (7) states that “the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
The government’s position is that the NCV did not attain the majority vote constitutional entrenchment required for passage and that it violated Article 156.3 (a) and (b) as well as Article 155 1 (a) of the Guyana constitution. Consequently, it filed an action in the High Court requesting a nullification of the NCV. The Chief Justice dismissed said action and upheld the constitutionality of the NCV. She declared that then government Member of Parliament, Charrandass Persaud, who voted for the motion, was not eligible to sit in the National Assembly at the time of his vote, but that his vote was valid. She also upheld the legality of the government in accordance with Article 106 (7).
The ruling by the Chief Justice is not final under the laws of Guyana. Accordingly, the government appealed her judgment to the appellate court, the Guyana Court of Appeals. It said, if necessary; it will appeal this matter to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s final court of appeal. This matter is now sub judice in the Guyana Court of Appeal. The government is not working with the PPP and the PSC schedule. It is working with the judiciary, which is acutely aware of the provisions of the supreme law.
The government has filed an appeal in accordance with the law. Since it is the court that must now act, why doesn’t the PSC attack or rush the court? Moreover, why must the government proceed to implement the provisions of Article 106 (7) before the time limit and without the sanction of the court, when the pending court action seeks to protect it from irrevocable harm mandated in 106 (7)? What if the government rushes to hold elections and the CCJ subsequently nullifies the NCV? Is our nation prepared to deal with that constitutional crisis? The government’s right to appeal is enshrined in the constitution and cannot be impinged or abridged. The PPP/PSC must respect that.
The constitution does not specify or prescribe a format of resignation under Article 106 (6). The Chief Justice said the resignation was automatic on December 21, 2018. Clearly, unless the Court of Appeal or the CCJ stays the Chief Justice’s order or nullifies the NCV, the government is required to call elections within the mandated 90 days; unless the National Assembly amends this requirement. The government and the nation understand this. We do not need lectures from the PSC on this issue of constitutional jurisprudence in which the PSC has no competence.
To date, the 90 period for elections has not expired. There has been no election. A new President has not been sworn in. Where then is this constitutional breach of which the PSC so recklessly speak? The constitution makes it pellucid that the government shall remain in power until new elections and a new president is sworn it. A state cannot be government-less. Necessity of governance is continuous. The government does not conduct elections. Elections are conducted by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), within its administrative capability. GECOM has advised the nation that it cannot conduct elections before July 2019. Article 106 (7) of the constitution grants the legislature powers to extend the instant 90 period for election, by a two-third majority entrenchment, to facilitate the mandate of GECOM.
Extending the 90 period will require the government and opposition to agree to a modus vivendi that charts a legislative path to effectuate elections as contemplated by Article 106 (7). The PSC has been colluding with opposition leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, who has said that the PPP will not agree to amend the 90 day provision. While this is the prerogative of the PPP, it is disgraceful for the PSC to premise its accusation against the government on presumed PPP noncooperation.
Consequently, absent the expiration of the 90 day period, as well as denial of a stay of the Chief Justice’s ruling by the Court of Appeal and CCJ, or either of the latter courts upholding the constitutionality of the NCV, and a failure of the National Assembly to extend the 90 period, it is false, reckless, dishonest, premature and politically mischievous for the PSC, like the PPP, to accuse the government of violating the law.
Moreover, the government has other options. Article 61 of the constitution states that “An election of members of the National Assembly under article 60 (2) shall be held on such day within three months after every dissolution of Parliament as the President shall appoint by proclamation.” The NCV notwithstanding, elections become constitutionally due within three-months after the President dissolves the National Assembly. The President can so do at any time within the 90 period of Article 106 (7); after being duly advised by the GECOM of its readiness to hold elections. The powers of the presidency under Article 60, and other relevant provisions, are absolute and unreviewable.
Mr. Kit Nascimento asserted that that the “PSC speak [s] for the stability and well-being of the business community and for the maintenance of the rule of law in the country and is perfectly within its mandate to defend a respect for the Constitution.” I am mildly bemused as I found no such mandate to the PSC in the Guyana constitution. In so far as the elitists in the PSC have arrogated such privilege unto themselves, I commission them to examine statements by opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo and PPP MP Harry Gill who have threatened unrest if the courts rule against the NCV. Clearly, this PPP incitement of violence is acceptable to the PSC from its political coalition partner. But when this PPP threatened violence breaks out, it is the said business interests the PSC claims to represent that will be the first casuality. Hence the PSC’s silence is as hypocritical as it is antithetical to its presumed self-arrogated mandate.
The PSC can be best served by focusing its attention on ensuring the business interests it claims to represent respect the nation’s labor, tax, money laundering and anti-narcotics laws, and leave politics to politicians. If not, PSC members who are opposed to its partisan PPP political activism should pull out and form a parallel private sector organization that is independent and devoid of partisan politics.