The quality of political leadership being delivered to this society from some quarters has to stop and the people are called to take action. The constitution and laws are dead at their heart unless activated by the people, taking into consideration the spirit and intent of these instruments. When elected officials believe they can misrepresent them to subvert public interest and subjugate the people, they are hijacking the machinery of state, and it can only stop when the people see to it that it does. For too long we continue to live with government officials violating the laws to deny citizens their rights, yet at the same time the opposition is conditioning people to think extra-parliamentary activities are unwarranted when they themselves seem incapable of holding the executive accountable.
The bills passed in the National Assembly expressed the will of the people. The Guyana Constitution allows any member (ie opposition or government) to bring any bill to the House and where such has conformed to parliamentary standards, people’s rights, debated then approved or denied, it is considered the act of the entire body. And where such has been voted on and the executive acts inconsistently with the decision it is violating the will of the people. The parliament as the people’s supreme decision-making organ cannot be treated with contempt once its actions are consistent with the supreme law (constitution). So when the President makes statements to the effect that if bills do not have executive input ‒ which for him means approval ‒ he will refuse assent, he is either being badly advised or demonstrating to this society a fundamental unfamiliarity with government and how it functions.
Further, Mr Clement Rohee’s recent statement that the opposition is bullying the Head of State when it calls for bills to be assented to, is a clear demonstration of constitutional ignorance. In a society where there is self-government, unless otherwise stated, the head of state or head of government is the people’s chief public servant, not the people’s master. And in the instance of Guyana, where we are not only an independent nation but also a republic, the head of state and head of government (president) is the head servant of the people. This is a fundamental understanding the President and his team are overlooking, unaware of, or seem not to care about.
And since the primary function of Parliament/National Assembly is to legislate, when this body, having upheld due diligence, allows a president whose role is to assent to or decline bills, to decline same based on immature reasoning and beyond the constitutionally stipulated time and the people stay silent then we become willing participants to the contempt these officials are showing us, their employer.
Additionally, with regard to the resignation thought by the Clerk of the National Assembly, this is not the best approach to fix a broken/lawless system. He is encouraged to press the authorities (executive and National Assembly) to provide the Parliament with the appropriate staff to carry out the requisite functions. The APNU is drawing attention to the constitutional requirement regarding the President assenting to bills and the parliamentary Standing Order, which are clear, and the Clerk should be encouraged that efforts are being made to give meaning and respect to these instruments, which he has a duty to protect. For the purpose of these instruments is to guide, conduct and ensure management of the people’s business within the ambit of acceptable norms.
Finally, the three branches of government are underpinned by checks and balances to ensure the people’s well-being is served. And while the role of the legislature is to obey and make laws, represent the people’s interests, and oversee the executive consistent with the aforementioned, the executive’s role is to uphold the laws and frame its policies in conformity with them; while the judiciary adjudicates behaviours to ensure conformity to the laws (local and international). Were each branch to understand its role and assiduously carry out its functions, this country would be further along the continuum. And we, the people, must see to it that our business is being properly conducted.