A motion of no-confidence by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo against the government will come up after the 2018 budget and consideration of the estimates, according to well-placed government sources.
Jagdeo had been pressing for the motion to be debated before the scheduled budget on Monday, November 26.
Meanwhile, Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs says it is for a government to decide when a no-confidence motion will be heard says.
“In my view, the day for the hearing of a no-confidence motion is determined by the Government and not by the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of Guyana,” Isaacs said in a press release.
Isaacs pointed out that the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Guyana “is silent on the requirements of a no-confidence motion” but in such cases the Parliament is required to refer to The Commons Assembly of Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“In any matter not herein provided for, resort shall be had to the usage and practice of the Commons Assembly of Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which shall be followed as far as the same, may be applicable to the Assembly, and not inconsistent with these Standing Orders or with practice of the Assembly,” Isaacs notes as he pointed to Guyana’s Standing Order No.113 (1).
Referring to the 24th Edition of the Parliamentary Practice of the Com-mons Assembly of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Clerk quotes, “From time to time the Opposition puts down a motion on the paper expressing lack of confidence in the Government or otherwise criticizing its general conduct. By established convention the Government always accedes to the demand from the Leader of the Opposition to allot a day for the discussion of a motion tabled by the official opposition which in the government’s view would have the effect of testing the confidence of the House. In allotting a day for this purpose the Government is entitled to have regard to the exigencies of its own business, but a reasonably early day is invariably found…”
He said that the same practice was used in 2014 when a no-confidence motion was brought against the then ruling People’s Progressive Party/ Civic by the Alliance For Change (AFC) which was then in opposition.
In 2014, then AFC MP, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo brought a motion against the Donald Ramotar-led People’s Progressive Party/Civic. It was seconded by his AFC colleague Catherine Hughes. The combined opposition had a one-seat majority over the government in 2014. In this case the APNU+AFC government has a one seat advantage.
While the Speaker had approved the motion in 2014, it was not debated as then President Ramotar prorogued the Parliament and later dissolved it for general elections.
At that time, current AFC Leader Raphael Trotman was Speaker of the National Assembly.
“Therefore, in keeping with the British practice, when a motion of no-confidence was brought against the government in 2014, having regard to the exigencies of the government’s business, it was published on Notice paper and dealt with like other Private Members’ motions that require notice: it was placed on the Order Paper for consideration by the National Assembly 12 days from the day on which the notice was published on a Notice Paper,” Isaacs stated yesterday.
Former two-term Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran says that he has confidence in the Clerk’s explanation and that a government determines when a no-confidence motion will be heard and will determine this “in accordance with its own priorities”.
“The government will sit down and determine what its priorities are. Budget is coming up so they will probably put it after the Budget, I presume,” he said.
On the other hand, Jagdeo believes that it is the Speaker of the National Assembly who determines when the motion should be debated and has urged that the motion be debated in the National Assembly before the presentation of the 2019 national budget on Monday.
“We are hoping that a decision would be made and the matter would be debated prior to the budget. The budget has not been presented as yet and the convention is that once a no-confidence motion is filed that it takes precedence over other issues. So, we are hoping that this will be done,” he told a press conference on Monday.
He noted then that the PPP/C has gotten word that the government wants the motion debated in December, after the budget is presented and passed and opined it is the Speaker who is responsible for saying when the motion comes up for debate.
“We’re gonna be watching carefully to see how the Speaker acts in this matter because it is not the executive that makes that determination, it has to be the Speaker…check the democracies around the world, that if a no-confidence motion is filed [against] the government, you can’t proceed to a budget debate when that is hanging,” he said before questioning what will happen if the motion succeeds.
“There is that self-interest on this matter but having said that, we expected that once the Speaker was appointed that he has a duty to not only the executive… but to all parliamentarians and he would exercise that duty and responsibility, fairly and impartially. We also expect the Speaker not to depart from what is international practice and norm in relation to [a] no-confidence vote and so we are hoping that the professionalism of the Speaker will prevail,” he added.
Ramkarran said that he took note of Jagdeo’s posture on the issue but that Parliamentary decisions by the Speaker follows procedures guided by the Standing Orders. He said that while the Speaker will have to first approve the motion before it goes further in the Parliamentary process, the Speaker does not determine when it will be heard since that is the duty of government. “I noticed that he said that it is the Speaker that determines. The procedure is that the motion has to go on something called a notice paper. Once the Speaker approves it, it goes on something called a Notice Paper where it stays for 12 days. When it comes off of the Notice Paper, it then goes on the Order Paper,” he explained.
The former Speaker said that that there is also a procedure for the printing of a Notice paper also. “You don’t just print a Notice Paper and put a Motion on it or print an Order Paper and put a Motion on it. An Order Paper is prepared for when Parliament is meeting,” he explained while reminding that the 12-day period is the minimum time as Parliament would have to wait until there is a sitting and as such “It isn’t as such where they manufacture an Order Paper on the 13th day. They wait until Parliament is meeting …so it could be more than 12 days,” Ramkarran explained.
Trotman gave his perspective, when contacted by this newspaper, even as he stressed that government is not afraid to debate the motion.
“Under the Standing Orders, the Speaker is the sole authority to approve Motions. If and when a Motion is approved, it passes to the Clerk to be placed on the Order Paper. The Government has no say here and quite frankly, if it did, this would make a mockery of the intention of the framers of Article 106 (6) because such a Motion would never be debated by a scared government,” he said.
“Unlike the PPP, we are not afraid of the Motion and will vigorously debate and defeat it and so we will not avoid it, or prorogue parliament. If, and when it is debated is a matter for the Speaker of the National Assembly. In 2014, when a Motion was introduced, I approved it almost immediately after doing my independent research and getting the benefit of advice from the Clerk,” he added.
Last Thursday, Jagdeo announced the filing of the motion, while saying the coalition government is damaging the country’s future prospects and accusing it of corruption and mismanagement.
“Clearly people are unhappy with the direction of the country; [with the] policies and practice of government…. Government has no vision. We are drifting, they have absolutely no plan for Guyana. They are using up our money on frivolous things, such as celebrations, food and rentals [and] they are borrowing a lot. They are damaging our prospects for the future,” Jagdeo said, while noting that the worst that can happen is that government uses its one-seat majority to defeat the motion.
If the motion is passes it would require the holding of general elections in 90 days.