President Donald Ramotar, in a staged interview to NCN and Guyana Chronicle on the Clement Rohee imbroglio, took umbrage with the Speaker for temporarily gagging Rohee, when he reportedly said, “[It is] totally wrong to take Minister Rohee to the Privileges Committee. You have to commit an offence… Rohee did not violate [anything].”
First of all, while certain major decisions for Parliament require a two-thirds majority vote, Parliament has the authority to make its own rules, regulations and decisions to govern itself based on a simple majority vote, and that was what happened when Parliament voted to pass a no-confidence motion against Mr Rohee, and is now trying to prevent him from speaking in the chamber in his capacity as Home Affairs Minister.
Now, since the constitution basically lays out the steps by which the President can be removed from office via a no-confidence vote by two-thirds of Parliament, and being unfit for the job is one reason cited, then who is any cabinet minister to escape being targeted? And Parliament addressed Mr Rohee’s performance as Home Affairs Minister in full detail before concluding, via a no-confidence vote, that he is unfit for the job. When Parliament says it has no confidence in your fitness for the job as a cabinet member and MP, then that pronouncement is just as serious as a violation.
On Mr Rohee’s watch, the out-of-control police shot at peaceful APNU protestors last year December. One senior police officer testified that he was the only one who fired weapons at Linden protestors, so we can readily conclude that the police shot unarmed Lindeners. The police also shot and killed two young men weeks apart. On the other hand, we had case after case of massive corruption involving government officials and their cronies, but the police never once went after these crooks. If all of this, and more, are not enough reason to conclude that Mr Rohee is unfit for the job of Home Affairs Minister, then what else is needed?
Second, when the President described the Speaker’s ruling on Mr Rohee as one of callousness and total disrespect for the rule of law and procedures in the country, does he not remember there were myriad instances when the PPP callously disrespected the rule of law and procedures in Guyana? What about the Auditor-General’s many reports which continue to highlight blatant theft of public funds by people in and out of government, and NICIL’s failure to present audited accounts for eight years to Parliament, in accordance with the law!
And when he opined that the Speaker displayed political leanings with his “political ruling” on the Rohee matter, was he not aware that former PPP House Speaker, Ralph Ramkarran, also displayed political leanings with his past political rulings that favoured the PPP?
Third, the parliamentary paradigm shift that gave majority control to the combined opposition, means it is no longer business-as-usual for the PPP to run roughshod over Parliament, doing whatever it wanted whenever it wanted and to whomever it wanted. And so one would think that almost one year into his five-year term, the President would have seized the unique opportunity this paradigm shift provided to show true leadership by working with political opponents via negotiations and compromise. Instead, he appears to have settled for making mundane speeches and giving prepped interviews in controlled environments.
Fourth, to those Guyanese who have been harping on about the lack of compromise between government and Parliament so that Parliament can get on with the people’s business, let the records show that it was the PPP government that sought at every twist and turn to stymie the parliamentary opposition from doing the job 51% of the electorate voted it to do.
All the parliamentary opposition has been trying to do for the past year is restore some semblance of accountability, responsibility and transparency in government, but government appears resistant to moves to hold it accountable for misappropriation of public funds, misuse of state assets and for good governance.
But since the only thing the PPP responds to is pressure, it means the PPP will only change through intense pressure. In closing, President Ramotar also made it clear that he is not concentrating on a snap election but was prepared for one if the combined opposition should make a push for it. Snap elections probably would have worked in the PPP’s favour months after the 2011 elections, but too much negative information has surfaced over the past months to allow the PPP to retain any credibility or political currency with Guyanese, including its traditional support base.
If the President does not understand that the PPP lost its parliamentary majority because of pervasive corruption, which he refuses to address frontally, and still proceeds to call snap elections to help the PPP recapture control of Parliament, then he could end up being Guyana’s shortest serving President.
The national mood today is definitely not in government’s favour as it was in 1992.