Opposition hones no-confidence vote plan

-several actions on table against Finance Minister

After extensive discussions yesterday, APNU and the AFC have agreed that a decision on pursuing a no-confidence vote against the Donald Ramotar administration will await how the government proceeds with the contentious financial paper seeking approval for $4.55B in expenditure.

AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan warned that should the government refuse to bring the financial paper to the National Assembly when Parlia-ment meets next week, it is essentially forcing the hand of the opposition.

He said that during discussions yesterday, the parties were “giving consideration to the modalities of and deciding on an opportune occasion and the time for the introduction for a motion of no-confidence under Article of 106 of the Constitution.”

Article 106 (6) states, “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of the majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”

Ramjattan explained that the decision by the government against proceeding with consideration of the Financial Paper when the National Assembly meets tomorrow was a result of the Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh being out of the country. He said that the opposition had to wait and see if the government would refuse to bring back the financial paper for discussion and that time will be given for this to occur.

Ramjattan stated that during the discussions with APNU, which were held at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, the two parties comprehensively decided that prior to a no-confidence motion being drafted the “AFC and APNU had agreed on censure of the minister of finance by placing him before the Committee of Privileges.”

A decision is yet to be made as Singh was earlier this year referred to the Privileges Committee for his failure to comply with a parliamentary resolution that required him to provide reports on extra-budgetary agencies and to pay all monies being held by such agencies into the Consolidated Fund.

He said that not only will Singh be presented to the Committee of Privileges but also a brief is being formulated with the view of having the police take action by way of prosecution against the minister.

Ramjattan told Stabroek News that there were in total four decisions that were made and that simultaneous with the various actions being taken against the minister, the collective opposition would also be approaching the court to pronounce on any future unauthorised expenditure.

When asked by Stabroek News whether the court has proven successful in pronouncing on unauthorised spending, he said that he was confident in the appeals process once a decision is made at the High Court level. Ramjattan stated that the opposition would be committed to appeal any ruling taking it all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice, if necessary.

The opposition, however, is still awaiting a date to be finalised in the appeal filed to challenge the ruling by acting Chief Justice Ian Chang that the 2012 budget cuts were unlawful. As a result of the appeal, there has been no challenge to the 2013 or 2014 budgets decisions in the courts.

 Public criticism

Ramjattan stated that he was aware of the public criticisms on the lack of commitment to the no-confidence motion. “There are plenty of Guyanese people and we want them all to give us their responses… we want public consideration on the matter,” he explained.

He said that there were mitigating factors that needed to be considered and that without public support a no-confidence vote was not feasible. He noted that carrying a no-confidence vote, the opposition will have need to organise a campaign strategy which will include millions in fundraising and ensuring that campaign staff is prepared.

He, however, added that given all the various factors, the AFC is fully prepared to move ahead and draft a no-confidence given the decision by the Finance Minister to present by way of the financial paper, a statement of excess to be approved by the National Assembly permitting the unapproved spending from the Consolidated Fund of funds cuts from the budget.

“This thing is too elementary to abuse in this fashion. You must have [approval] before you spend money or else you damage the Parliament beyond redemption,” he said, adding that control of the public purse is granted to the collective decision of the National Assembly. He said that there needed to be accountability towards the public by elected officials.

The AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo, who first brought the issue of a no-confidence motion to the table, had originally tied the issue to various factors, including the lack of transparency and a penchant for secrecy in relation to all the major industries in Guyana.

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