Alliance For Change (AFC) leader Khemraj Ramjattan in a letter to President Donald Ramotar on Thursday said that the party saw no alternative but to move a no-confidence motion against his administration but the president last night said such a motion was “completely baseless and spurious” and he would be prepared for the consequences.
The correspondence between the two leaders moves the country closer to a confidence vote and fresh general elections. All eyes will now be on the main opposition coalition, APNU. Yesterday, APNU said that it is continuing to mull throwing its support behind a motion of no-confidence. Observers say that APNU is unlikely to make a decision on whether it will support the no-confidence motion until its main constituent, the PNCR, holds its congress next weekend.
Ramjattan, nevertheless told this newspaper yesterday that he has commenced the motion’s drafting and intends to lay it in Parliament at the “opportune time.” In his letter, Ramjattan told Ramotar that the AFC “is of the view that the options for lawful and constitutional alternatives have rapidly decreased” in relation to what he said was the unauthorized withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund.
These options included recommending Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh to the Privileges Committee over recent budget spending and getting the police involved. The Privileges Committee has been moving very slowly on Singh’s matter, and though Ramjattan only furnished the police with a “Complaint and Brief” yesterday (see other story on page 14) he is moving ahead with the drafting of the motion.
Ramjattan says the AFC “finds it wholly unacceptable that (Ramotar’s) government is now spending from the Consolidated Fund beyond the provisions of the Appropriations Act of 2014 or any other approved by the Assembly.” Such acts, he continued, cannot be condoned. The idea of a no-confidence motion against government materialised after Singh revealed he had authorized the spending of $4.533 billion after it was cut from this year’s budget. Fed-up with government’s “abuse” of the Consolidated Fund it was AFC Executive Moses Nagamootoo who first floated the idea of the no-confidence vote.
In his letter Ramjattan declared that the “Party sees no other alternative than to proceed with this constitutional mechanism for removal of an unpopular Government that has ceased to enjoy the confidence of the National Assembly, and who by its actions demonstrated an unlawful and contemptuous disregard for the Supreme Law of the Country.”
The “constitutional mechanism” to which Ramjattan refers is found in Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana Act. The Article states that “the Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
Ramjattan reiterated that his party is deeply concerned “over the unauthorized and unconstitutional withdrawals” engaged in by Singh as reported in Financial Paper #1 of 2014. Singh’s actions, Ramjattan writes, contravene Article 217 of the constitution, and are not justified by Article 218 as Singh and other government representatives are alleging.
The President though, who responded to Ramjattan last night, maintains that “Article 218 is unambiguous in allowing for expenditure to be incurred in the absence, or in excess of available appropriations as approved in the extant Appropriation Act.”
The President also cited as justification, part of Chief Justice Ian Chang’s ruling which essentially says that it is Singh who must make the requisite “finding under Article 218 (3) of the constitution…”
Ramotar further iterated that his government and the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) are prepared to face the consequences of the AFC’s motion. The President warned Ramjattan that fresh elections will give government an opportunity to highlight to voters the AFC’s “anti-development” voting patterns.
Ramotar says the PPP/C will have “the ability to demand that the AFC explains to the Guyanese people their denial of them having cheap energy by opposing the Hydro Power Station at Amaila.” He also told Ramjattan that he “will have the chance to explain why you have voted against giving the Guyanese people better health care due to your opposition to a specialty hospital.
Moreover, you will clarify for the electorate whether it was because your client lost out in the bidding process to construct the complex.”
Ramotar also signalled intentions to ask questions on the AFC’s opposition to the construction of the Marriott Hotel, and whether the party’s objection to the hotel is tied to the fact that its chief financier is also in the hotel business.
Ramotar also says “it will give you the opportunity to explain to the Guyanese people how and why the Chairman of your party interfered with the judicial process causing the persons who were charged with the Lusignan massacre to walk free…an opportunity will be provided for you to explain why you partnered with the APNU calling for the closing down of the sugar factory thereby jeopardizing the lives and livelihood of thousands of sugar workers and their families.
Finally, Ramotar said the PPP/C would highlight the party’s cutting of the budget, and its opposition to the passing of the anti-money laundering bill. “Of course I can continue but I think the point is made,” the president said.
APNU MP Joseph Harmon told Stabroek News yesterday that the coalition is still considering the AFC’s proposal. He added that in light of the letter Ramjattan sent to the President on Thursday APNU is likely to discuss whether or not to support a no-confidence motion during its Shadow Cabinet meeting next Tuesday.
In the meantime Harmon spoke of the likelihood of government ignoring the no-confidence motion as it has done with other motions it did not find favourable.