The opposition leader has to be much more

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–than creating chaos, disorderliness and disunity

Dear Editor,
THE Constitution of Guyana is clear as to the roles and responsibilities of each actor. What persons are doing is seeking to misrepresent the Constitution and apply their interpretations of the courts’ rulings as though such represent truth.

It is difficult not to conclude that this is a strategy, and it is time we ask: To what end, and for whose benefit?
The responsibility for the current political environment is not that of the Government or Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), collectively or alone; it is also that of the Opposition. It is a tripartite responsibility requiring action on the part of the interim Government, the interim Opposition, and the constitutional independent GECOM. All must be held to the standards as outlined in their constitutional responsibilities, and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)’s ruling on July 12.

That said ruling at Item 7 expressly states: “Article 106 of the Constitution invests the President and the National Assembly (and implicitly in GECOM), responsibilities that impact on the precise timing of when the elections must be held.” Three actors have been identified and called into question on this matter. While identification of all is clear, the call for compliance by the President and GECOM and absolving the National Assembly and the role of the Leader of the Opposition is unacceptable.

Under the CCJ’s ruling, the Opposition has judicial and constitutional responsibilities to discharge. The National Assembly comprises Members of Parliament (MPs) from both the Government and Opposition, yet we continue to witness letters in the press from Opposition MPs calling on the Government and GECOM to do, but they are yet to communicate to this nation their commitment to honour their responsibilities consistent with Article 106(7) and the ruling.

The National Assembly is, too, an independent body, but there is an absence of interest by the Opposition MPs, who comprise this body, to get their house in order that we can navigate this period in an atmosphere of legal and mutual respect. As they cast aspersions on GECOM and the Government, and call on us to hold them to account, this call rings hollow. They, too, have a role to play, and we must hold them accountable in the tripartite arrangement, which they are seeking to make dual.

Further, in keeping with Article 106(6), while the Opposition has called on the government to resign, there appears an unwillingness on their part to forge any intelligent discussion that could realise an indigenous protocol to ensure continuity of government, for there cannot be an absence of government, as Article 106(7) intimates. Even the guideline offered by the CCJ at Item 8, the Opposition appears disinterested in reviewing.

Members of Parliament are being paid to work in the National Assembly. For the eight months of this year, though being in receipt of salary, they have not given a fair day’s work in the Assembly. The no-confidence/confidence vote was validly passed on December 21, 2018, so ruled the final court of resort, the CCJ, on June 18, 2019. Three months have passed from the time of that vote in dealing with the earliest period when an election should have been held (i.e. by March 2019).

Both the Government and Opposition have utilised the judicial process in their recourse to seeking justice on the vote which went outside of the three months. No side should be blamed or accused for delaying elections while exhausting their constitutional right to recourse. Respect for the Rule of Law would now see the MPs returning to the Assembly and granting the extension of time, consistent with the “or such longer period” as outlined in Article 106(7).

The bullying tactics, overt or covert, we’re witnessing directed towards Justice Claudette Singh, SC, as to what should be done by GECOM must stop. GECOM comprises of Commissioners representing both sides of the political divide. As an independent body, it must be allowed to freely discharge its duties, consistent with the Constitution and rulings of the CCJ, and recently the High Court.

For whereas GECOM has to do its work to ensure credible election and advise the President as to its readiness when this can be done, in order that he can discharge his responsibility and set a date, no elections can be called without the activation of a vote by the National Assembly to extend the time for calling same. To go down another road constitutes a violation of the Constitution, and risk litigation.

The no-confidence issue is a first for the nation. Guyanese are operating in the dark, and must tread the unknown carefully. The Opposition has a role to play, not only in part but in whole, by attending to all matters relating to and depending on this issue. Its leadership has to be much more than creating chaos, disorderliness and disunity, for such stand to further destabilise this country and the institutions of government.
Regards,
Lincoln Lewis