A minority government cannot have sovereignty

Dear Editor,

I have been told often enough that the law must be consistent, that it should make sense, especially the constitution. In addition, any competent lawyer should be able to explain the law to any layman once he himself understands it completely. And when there is some measure of confusion on any matter of interpretation, all one really has to do is to take the problem to its logical extreme and see what happens.

We are now in the middle of the third year after the controversial 2011 election, and we are still faced with a minority government operating as if it has sovereignty. But it cannot, since sovereignty, according to our constitution, resides in the people who express it through their elected representatives, in this case Parliament.

The article of our constitution which is causing this confusion states as follows: 177. (1) Any list of candidates for an election held pursuant to the provisions of article 60 (2) shall designate not more than one of those candidates as a Presidential candidate. An elector voting at such an election in favour of a list shall be deemed to be also voting in favour of the Presidential candidate named in the list.

(2) A Presidential candidate shall be deemed to have been elected as President and shall be so declared by the Chairman of the Elections Commission ––

(a) if he is the only Presidential candidate at the election; or

(b) where there are two or more Presidential candidates, if more votes are cast in favour of the list in which he is designated as Presidential candidate than in favour of any other list.

So let us apply the extreme principle test to our Guyana Constitution: three parties are running in an election; Party A gets 34% of the popular vote, Party B gets 33% and party C gets 33%.

What our constitution does say, is that in such a situation party B cannot form a coalition with party C and allot their 66% vote to getting a presidential candidate nominated by the Gecom Chairman; he is obliged to declare the head of the party’s list which got 34% as the President.

And this is where we enter this bizarre twilight zone we are now in.

You cannot take the party which obtained only 34% of the national vote and allow it to form a minority government, unable to function since the other two opposition parties have 66% of the vote. It’s a nonsense and unfair to the people.

Now remember that this anomaly described by both the government and the opposition as uncharted waters since 2011, has never really been tested in any court in or out of Guyana. The PPP certainly won’t want to challenge this conundrum which allows them to form a minority government. It is the sole responsibility of the opposition to do so, and they have not, but they must challenge it, since in not challenging it, they are allowing the PPP to violate the constitutional rights of the majority of the people in this country.

Does our constitution tell us that the leader of the party with the largest single block of votes can be declared by the chairman of Gecom as the President? The answer is yes, but does the constitution tell us that he can form a government to rule the country if he does not have the control of the majority of the seats in parliament and violate article 9 of our constitution that says sovereignty resides in the people? The answer is no, nowhere in the constitution does it say that he can form a government legitimately unless he has the confidence of the majority of the people, so he has to open negotiations with the other two parties to get their support to do so; nowhere in the constitution does it say that he cannot negotiate with them to see if one of them will join him to form a government and what their respective demands for doing so are, ie, how many ministries they will want etc. Clearly the one with the most reasonable demands will be chosen and then the President can form his government!

I see people telling us in the media that the executive has sovereignty. This is a concept which is riddled with more trash than the city of Georgetown. It can only have sovereignty when it represents the majority of the people and its sovereignty will come from Parliament.

If what I am saying is so, and I have no doubt that it is, until we get this to a court outside Guyana we will never know; our situation is so perilous that a recent declaration by Minister of Works Robeson Benn that the government is not going to lower the tolls at the Berbice Bridge, is an act against the people and the parliament of Guyana.

It is against this background that I must put the declaration of President Donald Ramotar in Sunday’s KN telling us on page 6 that it is the “opposition who are endangering the welfare of Guyanese” when in fact I hold the view that it was total eyepass for him to form a government, the legality of which is questionable and which in its day-to-day dealings is allowing the constitution and the law to be violated in numerous areas – no local government elections, no procurement commission, no opposition members on many state boards, no legitimate day-to-day consultations with the opposition, all national business conducted in absolute secrecy, no representatives on GuySuCo, GPL, NICIL, NCN, NDIA, among other violations too numerous to list here.

And when the opposition tries to hold his feet to the fire to get the privileges they are entitled to by law, he says no to them, and publicly accuses them of having a culture of “no”!

Winston Churchill once said that a dictator is like a man riding a tiger, and the longer he rides that tiger the hungrier it gets, so he cannot get off for fear of being eaten by it. This is exactly the situation Mr Ramotar and the PPP find themselves in; they can’t come off of the tiger Mr Jagdeo put them on, since if the opposition were to be given the access to the information they are required to have to legitimately act as an effective opposition, no one knows what they would uncover.

Editor I am not a madman and my commentaries stand as a monument to the fact that I do not lie or misrepresent what I have uncovered from my research, and the situation I have outlined here is not based on my concepts, but what I have distilled from my conversations with Guyana’s greatest living legal mind.

Neither Mr Nandlall nor Mr Williams are competent to pilot us out of these uncharted unconstitutional waters; I wonder what a leader like Desmond Hoyte would have done?

Yours faithfully,
Tony Vieira              

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