The Alliance For Change (AFC) has denounced President Bharrat Jagdeo’s ultimatum to MPs to declare their assets or face criminal charges, saying he has overstepped his authority and ignored the law.
In a strongly-worded statement, AFC Leader Raphael Trotman on Tuesday condemned the President’s call, saying that it signals that the executive has decided to impose its will on the legislative branch of the government. “Nowhere in the free world could the head of the executive branch issue ultimatums, threaten, and initiate criminal action against members of the legislature,” he said. “It is obvious that Jagdeo does not understand the sacred concepts of the rule of law and separation of powers, and needs to be enlightened accordingly, or has decided not to pay them any mind,” he emphasised.
On Monday, Jagdeo put parliamentarians on notice that they would be expected to submit statements of income and assets to the Integrity Commission within two weeks, in keeping with their lawful obligations. He said too that he would also urge the Integrity Commission to publish the names of defaulting MPs in the national newspapers and request that the police charge defaulters in accordance with the law.
Under the Integrity Commission Act, while the President does have supervisory authority over the commission and is empowered to request information from declarants and to publish their names and to hold formal enquiries, charges for breaches of the law have to be instituted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Trotman, in his statement, reminded that only a week ago, a Minister of Government, acting contrary to the laws and Constitution of Guyana, purported to dismiss two senior public servants from the Transport and Harbours Department and in this vein said it is clear that there is a dictatorship in the country. He also noted that the Integrity Commission was established to oversee the acquisition of assets by public officials and if there is a failure to comply, there are certain prescribed actions that it may take without the instruction having to come from the head of state. Further, he also pointed out that the question of whether indeed the Integrity Commission is even properly constituted is a matter engaging the attention of the High Court. “The AFC will resist vigorously, any attempt to have the previously independent commission impose any authority over its members, especially, now that it has been revealed that it is the President who has usurped its powers, and is now in charge,” Trotman said. The Integrity Commission’s Secretariat continues to function on a daily basis, with its main task being the collection of statements of income and assets from senior public officials and MPs. But the body itself has been in limbo since its members were appointed in November 2004 as the opposition leader Robert Corbin said he was not properly consulted in keeping with the law. A suit challenging the legality of the appointments has been before the courts since 2005. Meanwhile, Chairman Bishop Randolph George submitted his resignation since April, 2006, but it has never been acknowledged by President Jagdeo.