A resort to the courts to challenge a no- confidence vote would be unconstitutional

Dear Editor,

The public has been calling for serious police reform to no avail. Guyanese are under siege from criminality with no respite, despite the nonsensicalities from the over-his-head apparatchik heading the Ministry of Home Affairs. Suddenly on the heels of a looming no-confidence vote and with the rumour swirling that the PPP intends to seek judicial review, the PPP is increasing the complement of police officers by 1546 ranks from 3410 to 4956 ranks. Is this a genuine act of police reform or an attempt to protect the PPP? I see any attempt to resort to the courts to challenge a no-confidence vote as improper, unlawful and unconstitutional. After all, the constitution is as clear as day. Article 106(1) states “There shall be a Cabinet for Guyana, which shall consist of the President, the Prime Minister, the Vice-Presidents, and such other Ministers as may be appointed to it by the President.” Article 106(6) states “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” Article 106(7) states “(7) Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”

There is nothing in Article 106 and its sub-clauses that offers any equivocation. The government and president “shall” resign. There is no ‘may’ or ‘could’ resign. It is ‘shall’ resign. This constitution was drafted by a Burnham to cement his hold on power. If there is no avenue for judicial review in it, then none was intended because the PNC would have put it there to hold onto power. So, any attempt to judicially review what are very unambiguous and incontestable clauses in the constitution is nothing more than an attempt to remain in power illegally and unconstitutionally by abusing the legal process, fully knowing that the sloth of that process will offer an opportunity to remain in power by delaying elections and by trampling over the majoritarian expression of the National Assembly.

In 1979, a UK government resigned after a no-confidence vote and called an election in just over a month. In 2006 a Canadian government resigned after a successful no-confidence vote. The motions simply stated there was no confidence in the government. Nothing more. That is all; that is sufficient. There are numerous examples of successful no-confidence votes in advanced democracies without any attempt at remaining in power illegally and unconstitutionally.

The increase in the complement of the police force must be examined in this context, and the question must be asked whether this is really a genuine attempt at fixing the rising crime rate in the Republic with its narco-submarines or an attempt to secure future protection. If the PPP tries to delay elections after a successful no-confidence vote, the National Assembly should pass a motion directing the President to call elections before the three-month expiry date.

Stabroek News’ editorial ‘The police and the submersible’ (August 17) asks some hard questions about the police force and concludes, quite correctly, that increasing the size of a corrupt, demoralized, unresponsive, incompetent and inefficient force without any serious reform is not going to change anything. I argue further that it will only enlarge the problem. The other common myth is low pay within the force. The force is paid decently, relatively speaking. According to the budget estimates, the total estimated employment cost of the Guyana Police Force in 2014 was $4,286,243,000. For 3410 police personnel, this is $1,256,963 per police rank per year (US $6,285 per year per rank). An increase of 1546 ranks at the current average rank salary will add $1,943,264,798 to the existing $4,286,243,000 paid to the police and will increase overall employment costs to $6,229,507,798. GDP per capita in 2013 was US$3496. At US$6285 per year per rank, the average police rank earned US$2789 more than the GDP per capita, 44% higher than the GDP per capita. In a country where there are those living on US$2 per day or less (US$730 per year), the average police pay is stellar. The problem does not appear to be low pay but imbalanced pay as the superiors are likely taking the hog’s share of the employment costs and leaving little for the lesser ranks. Should taxpayers be funding this obvious imbalance in pay when the results are ultimately atrocious?

Studies have conclusively proven that an increase in the police complement does not lower crime in any sustained manner. It would be even worse with increasing an unreformed incompetent and corrupt police force. At 3410 police ranks, Guyana has 455 police ranks per 100,000 of the population. This puts Guyana at 40th in the world in terms of the number of ranks per 100,000 of the population. That is already significantly high, while crime continues to escalate dramatically. The increase sought by the PPP to 4956 ranks would give Guyana 661 ranks per 100,000 of the population, enough to place Guyana at 21st worldwide. If having the 40th highest number of ranks per 100,000 of the population in the world has not alleviated crime and in fact, witnessed a rapid increase in crime, it is goat-bitten nonsense to think that throwing even more ranks into a cauldron of incompetence and corruption will somehow fix the problem of rising crime. Taxpayers are being asked to play along with this reckless stab-in-the-dark escapade using their hard-earned dollars. Finally, this increase is an opportunity to infuse much-needed ethnic balance into the police force. Is there any indication from the Home Affairs Minister that this is on the cards?

Yours faithfully,

M Maxwell

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