The 2011 election changed the conventions

Dear Editor,

Your analysis in the editorial, ‘Impasse’ is timely and spot on. While I had to gnaw and grind my teeth when you arrived at the conclusion I have to accept that also. Your quote, “One cannot help but feel that perhaps this tactic (of the opposition) was not carefully thought through, since APNU and the AFC have now boxed themselves into a corner, ”is also accurate and may be due to the inexperience of the Speaker and bad advice from the Senior Counsel he went to for advice.

I wish to pay particular attention to the beginning of the editorial, “There seems little doubt that in less anomalous jurisdictions convention would have required Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee to resign, but stony soil blights Guyana’s political landscape, and no such convention has ever taken root here.” The operative word here is ‘convention.’ It is my sincere belief that parliament, given the make-up since last November‘s elections, had an opportunity to stamp their authority on the convention of norms.
It is so difficult to get real discussions on ways to swing our country around. Too many are so rigid in party affiliation and support that any attempt to rock the boat, even if it is for the benefit of the country we all love, is met with opposition or worse yet, silence. I was mystified at the lack of response to my last two letters to SN. I write with the intention to probe. I want discussion.

The first letter asked the question “Is the government using the escalating crime situation as a path to continuous electoral victory?” In the second I wanted to know if the November election did not provide a situation where the normal political conventions in Guyana had changed.

There was no discussion on these letters and I could not help wondering about the thousand and one bloggers who would pick up on anything except on what can actually change our country.

That is why your editorial reference to convention is so pleasing to me. As such I will delve into my way of thinking and explain why in my layman’s capacity I think a great opportunity was lost here based on what I think is a flawed interpretation.

Simply put, my understanding of the situation of governance and the make-up in parliament, since November 2011, where the majority is not leading the government was not represented succinctly in the 1980 constitution. If that is the case it therefore means that the Senior Counsel cannot look at the constitution for his conclusion.

He would be correct in stating that the no-confidence motion is unenforceable where the government has the majority and they are sticking with their man. In this case we are in unchartered waters. In this case, in my estimation, the so-called convention has changed. Giving credit to the Senior Counsel he did leave an opening for the Speaker in his interpretation. Quoting from the news report he noted that, “However, in other jurisdictions he would have been forced by convention to resign as a Minister.” I would have applied this quote to the situation and come up with a ruling thus:

Ladies and gentlemen

The result of the last elections has left us in a situation where we must hastily come together and revisit our constitution so that we can have strict guidelines to deal with and enforce our laws of governance. We are now in unchartered waters. We now have the majority in the opposition and in this particular situation the majority has put forward a no-confidence against a member of parliament. We must strive for the acknowledgement of the wishes of the majority. That is the new convention to which we should adhere. That being the case I would tend to go along with the wishes of the majority in parliament and uphold the vote.

Of course this interpretation would have been taken to the court, but so what? The interpretation would have further been looked at by the court, but persons would have been more cognizant of the powers of the new convention.

A faint heart will never win a fair lady. Where parliament goes from here is anyone’sguess. Timely editorial.

Yours faithfully,
F Skinner

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