Caricom considering opposition’s request to get involved on prorogation

—Caricom SG

Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Irwin La Rocque on Friday defended the regional grouping’s silence on the suspension of Parliament by President Donald Ramotar and said that a request by the opposition for the grouping to get involved is being considered.

Leader of the Oppos-ition David Granger has urged that an emergency meeting of Heads of Government of Caricom be convened “to consider a collective approach to the governance crisis in Guyana.” La Rocque told Stabroek News on Friday that he received a letter from Granger and AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan requesting that he bring certain matters to the attention of the Caricom Heads of Government and “I will do so.”

He said that he has already contacted Chair-man of the Conference – Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown – and “the matter is in process.” Asked whether the matter would likely be discussed at the next summit of Caricom Heads of Government, he said that he did not know as there is no agenda yet.

Irwin La Rocque
Irwin La Rocque

On November 10, Ramotar suspended Parli-ament triggering the country’s worst political crisis since the 2011 general elections. His government has not been able to mobilise support for its move. The AFC, whose motion of no confidence against the government was thwarted by the prorogation, as well as APNU have insisted that there will be no talks with the Ramotar administration unless Parliament is recalled.

Organisations such as the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Western nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have called for the suspension of Parliament to be lifted but Caricom has not said anything.

Asked why Caricom has not said anything while the OAS has made its voice heard, La Rocque responded that “the OAS chose to say something and we chose not to say anything, very simple. You see one must not always rush to make a statement. There are ways of doing things.” He pointed out that Caricom did not make a statement about Linden but was very much involved in arranging and working with the government on the Commission of Inquiry set up to probe the incident that saw three men being shot dead and several others being injured during protests in the mining town in 2012.

“One doesn’t have to rush to make public statements to be doing something about something,” La Rocque stressed.

In his letter to La Rocque which was seen by Stabroek News, Granger said that Guyana has been plunged into a grave constitutional and political crisis that, “if allowed to fester, can expose our people to serious disorder.” The APNU leader recalled that the general and regional elections held on November 28, 2011, resulted in A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) holding a majority in the National Assembly.

Granger said that President Ramotar and     the People’s Progressive Party/Civic minority have never respected the will of the majority. “They have, on the contrary, used every means, in and out of the National Assembly, to obstruct good governance and thwart the will of the people,” he wrote.

“The PPP/C s tactics over these three years have included the wilful expenditure of funds that had been expressly disapproved; the non-assent to Bills that had been lawfully passed; the non- compliance with resolutions of the Assembly; and the launching of repeated challenges to the authority and autonomy of the National Assembly in the High Court,” he said.

Granger recalled that the President facing a no-confidence motion prorogued the National Assembly on November 10 and said that APNU views this action “in smothering the voices of the legitimate representatives of the people in the National Assembly, as a crude assault on our parliamentary democracy and an abuse of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Charter of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community.”

He said that APNU has resolved not to tolerate the PPP/C administration’s disregard for the integrity and independence of the National Assembly and, as well, condemns the administration’s continued non-compliance with the Guyana Constitution especially with regard to the compulsory conduct of local government elections, last held in 1994.

The President’s an-nounced “intention to hold Local Government Elec-tions in the Second Quarter of next year, 2015 flouts both the Constitution and the Charter and insults the nation. Local government elections, like general and regional elections, are a constitutional entitlement, not a benefaction of the government. President Ramotar’s proclamation of 10th November 2014 is contemptuous of the democratic aspirations of our people,” Granger said.

“We request that you bring this matter to the attention of the Caribbean Community Heads of Government and urge that an emergency meeting be convened to consider a collective approach to the governance crisis in Guyana,” Granger wrote adding that APNU is willing to meet La Rocque to discuss the matter in greater depth.

Since the suspension of Parliament by the President, APNU and the AFC have made efforts to draw international attention to the matter. A stream of statements from civil society expressed concern at the prorogation of Parliament and some have called for new elections to settle the crisis.

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