Former Finance Minister and APNU Member of Parliament Carl Greenidge says any legal challenge mounted by the ruling PPP/C against the planned no-confidence motion against the government would be without basis.
“This is a motion of no confidence, by the people. The people are the ones making this decision… how are you going to try and challenge that in the courts?” Greenidge told Stabroek News.
He likened the situation to “deciding you want to divorce your husband and then your husband going to a man on the street and ask if you are in your right to do so.”
He said that with APNU’s support, the AFC no-confidence motion was a sign that the majority of parliamentarians representing the Guyanese people were showing there was a lack of faith in the current basis of governance. He said that for the government to try and go to move to the court would show a lack of understanding by the ruling administration and the continued attempts to undermine the separation of the three branches of government.
“Legally the courts, a judge cannot decide that an MP has or doesn’t have confidence in the government,” he added,
The AFC’s no-confidence motion, which was officially submitted to the Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs on August 7, prior to Parliament going into recess, was written in simple language.
Stabroek News asked Greenidge if the opposition was at all concerned that there would be challenges to the motion due to its simplicity. He said that there should not be, while citing cases in India and the British Parliament when the opposition parties have utilised other methods not so straightforward to bring down governments. Greenidge recalled in England opposition parties were able to reduce the finance minister’s salary to a dollar, which rendered the functioning of the house impossible. He noted that in India the Speaker had refused to read out the reasons for a no-confidence motion.
The MP told this newspaper that for all the reasons the government can think to challenge or stall the no-confidence motion, precedent for it has been set in other Parliaments that function in the Westminster system.
He also said that in other parts of the world when a government chooses to bring forth a motion of confidence in the attempt to side-line a no-confidence motion, it is generally done when the government is in the majority. He said that for the government to bring its own motion would serve no purpose because although government business takes precedence in the Parliament, ultimately any motion comes down to a vote.
Greenidge also noted that Attorney General Anil Nandlall’s suggestion on NCN that the no-confidence was a fishing expedition was “ludicrous.” He noted that while Nandlall said that Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh’s authorisation of the spending of $4.5 billion for expenditure expressly disapproved by the National Assembly was a collective decision, the no-confidence motion was reflective of a comprehensive lack in assurance that the PPP/C was capable of proper governance. He noted that the Financial Paper No 1 of 2014 needed to be addressed and the government’s decision to not do so prior to the parliamentary recess once again highlighted an unwillingness to operate in good faith. The financial paper was the impetus for the eventual move towards a motion of no confidence by the opposition.
Greenidge explained that Singh had requested time after he tabled the Financial Paper on June 19. Greenidge stated that Singh was not present at subsequent meetings of the House and as a result the Statement of Excess was never given a chance to be debated. “The minister was given a time allowance and he was asked to explain, but subsequently he did not attend,” Greenidge said.
Greenidge said that the legalities that the government should be concerned about are those which stipulate that once money has been spent in such a manner, the validation done through a Statement of Excess needs to be laid as soon as the spending occurs.
He said that this was not done concerning the $4.5 billion. The government, knowing that the Statement of Excess has to be presented has never given direct dates the expenditures were made. The finance minister had only stated that expenditure happened between January and June.
The APNU parliamentarian said that the only deadline that the Financial Paper has is before the reading of the next budget. “If we don’t vote that sum can’t be cleared,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House Raphael Trotman stated that this was “not something we should allow to languish,” but did say that at the parliamentary level there was nothing that would constitute a deadline.