While declaring last evening that APNU+AFC felt “betrayed” by the actions of its Member of Parliament (MP) Charrandas Persaud, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo says that the government has accepted that it lost the motion of no-confidence brought against it by the PPP/C and the relevant constitutional provisions will kick in.
General Elections now have to be held in 90 days. The collapse of the government comes at a particularly precarious time for APNU+AFC with President David Granger being unwell and the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Justice (Rtd) James Patterson also unwell.
Thus far there has been no word on the collapse of his government from President Granger.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s motion of no-confidence was crafted on the heels of the November 12 local government elections where the PPP/C stormed to impressive wins.
The PPP/C lost the 2015 general elections by a mere 4,500 votes and will now fancy its chances at the new polls. It however has to decide who its presidential candidate will be.
Stunned after the parliamentary defeat, the government called a press conference at Parliament Building and said that prior to the commencement of the debate of the PPP/C’s no confidence motion, Persaud had given no indication that he was in support of it.
“He did not indicate. I think that we were totally betrayed by Mr. Charrandass’ actions tonight. We had no indication that that was the way he was going to go,” a visibly shocked Opposition Chief Whip Amna Ally said during the press conference.
Her voice cracking as she spoke, Ally informed that at a meeting held prior to the motion, the MPs were asked if anyone had a dissenting view and no one indicated.
Ally was joined by Prime Minister Nagamootoo, Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence to address the media on the development. Also present were all the other government MPs. A meeting was held with everyone minutes after the voting had ended.
Nagamootoo responded in the negative when asked if Persaud had ever expressed dissatisfaction with the way government was functioning
“We met here this afternoon before Parliament and we all recommitted to the unity of the coalition and there was no reason that anyone has to believe that Mr. Charrandass has an issue. I can tell you this that during the elections campaign at Whim for the local government elections Mr. Charrandass shared the platform with me and he was stout in his advocacy of the Alliance for Change candidate in those elections,” he pointed out before adding that up to last Saturday Persaud accompanied him and other government officials to a children’s party Berbice and he was “all gay and happy.” Persaud, an attorney hails from Berbice.
The PM reiterated that the party had no prior indication whatsoever that he had an issue. “Something, a tsunami might have had to happen overnight or momentarily to have affected Mr. Charrandass,” he said.
Nagamootoo explained to reporters that a circular was sent to all the government
MPs indicating that this was not a conscience vote. “We would have said that Mr. Charrandass might have wanted to exercise a conscience vote but he had not asked or requested that he be given the right to exercise conscience but the circular said that this was not one of the occasions on which one exercises a conscience vote,” Nagamootoo said.
“It leaves one to believe that this was a sudden development or perhaps Mr. Charrandass would care to explain whether he had been compromised because he had given no indication that he has reneged on his commitment to the coalition or that he has some displeasure or had become disloyal to the party to which he had belonged and to the government to which he has belonged,” he stressed.
Giving an opening statement, Nagamootoo stated that after a no-confidence motion is approved by a majority of all the elected members, the House is directed by Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution, which in summary states that upon the passage of a no confidence motion in the House, the government shall resign and hold elections within three months, unless otherwise decided for a longer period in which elections could be held by two thirds of the members of the National Assembly.
Nagamootoo informed that given the development, government will be seeking legal advice.
“As it is, the Assembly has not met and that is another issue before us but the government remains in office until such time as elections are called and this is matter that will engage the attention of the government and our legal advisors as to what are the options available and what are the timelines for those options,” he said before reiterating that as the constitution states elections are to be held within 90 days.
He used the opportunity on behalf of the APNU+AFC coalition government to say that the process in the National Assembly moments earlier was “open and transparent.” He said too that there was a robust debate involving speakers from both sides and the “parliamentary democracy in a sense triumphed that after the robust debate a vote was called for and one member of the government voted with the opposition.
“The government will meet to decide on the status of that member who has been informed that this was not an occasion on which a conscience vote would be taken and had undertaken to fully support and be in solidarity with his side. He had acted now contrary to his undertaking and a member of the government side.”
Nagamootoo added that the Guyanese people must understand that the democratic process sometimes is “unpredictable. You may have results that you did not plan for. It is like cricket in some sense. What happened here today, a game of glorious uncertainty.” He added that the public has to understand too that there may be outcomes which may not be predictable or outcomes which may not have been anticipated.
He called for acceptance of the outcome. “We want our supporters in particular…to understand that we are going back to the polls. This is not the end, this is just a challenge that we have to deal with and we are back on the ground, among them in the villages and in the communities and the towns, rallying the support once again in what will be a new electoral cycle,” he said before urging supporters to maintain the peace, good order and stability of the country.
“We want nothing to happen in our society that will affect the stability and peace and we want nothing to happen that would affect the business community in this particular period that you have bright business…and a lot of activities in the street,” he said before also taking the opportunity to inform the public that they should go about their business in the usual way and should not make this, it may be a surprise to some, it may be a shock to others, it may be welcomed by some and others may rejoice over the result but that is how democracy works and we are fully committed to the rule of law. Our government has defended the rule of law, restored the rule of law and we want the rule of law to prevail.”
He assured that for the time being the government is in place and the work will continue. He said that the ministers will continue to function and that government will try to give as much of the good life promised with the recently passed budget in the months ahead until elections are held.
Nagamootoo later expressed confidence that government will return to power despite the poor showing of its supporters at the just concluded local government elections.
“You had the 33 in government and 32 in the opposition. Representing people who had voted in the 2015 elections…the support and the base has not betrayed the party, has not moved away from the party. We will know that in the national elections but we have every reason to believe that we enjoy the support we had enjoyed in 2015 and even greater support over the years since the last elections,” he said.
He insisted that the defection of one member seems to be a decision by one member which is not reflective of how people feel at the grassroots. “If we have to go down into an elections, then that is how politicians would be expected to behave in a situation such as this, that we retain our confidence, our optimism. We have suffered a setback here. This is not an ordinary setback. This is a serious political setback but then we move on and mobilise and strengthen our base in preparation for new polls,” he stressed.
With regards to security arrangements, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan disclosed that Persaud has requested security for himself. Ramjattan indicated that arrangements have been put in place for Persaud until he reportedly leaves the country early today.
Meanwhile on Nagamootoo’s instructions, several of the MPs met some party supporters standing outside of the parliament buildings compound.
Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson reassured the supporters, some of whom were teary eyed that all will be well. “What we have to do now is sit and relax. Don’t become emotive, don’t act or say anything that you may regret tomorrow. You may go to sleep tonight with a little heavy heart but …we beat them already once, we will beat them again,” he stressed.
With first oil set for 2020, the outcome will rock the entire country and particularly the investment community. Preparations for general elections will create a period of instability and a vacuum when important pieces of legislation and the execution of the 2019 budget are required. It will also raise questions about whether the President would be able to lead the government through this period as his chemotherapy regimen for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma goes all the way up to May.
Last night’s outcome will be a particularly bitter outcome for Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo who was one of the speakers on the motion tonight and who up to last night had boldly said that no APNU+AFC MP would vote for the PPP/C motion.
There is great irony to the no-confidence motion. Nagamootoo and the AFC had tabled one against the PPP/C in 2014 and to avoid losing it, the President Donald Ramotar prorogued and then dissolved Parliament leading to the 2015 elections which APNU+AFC won.
There would now be great uncertainty as whether the APNU+AFC coalition would survive this collapse.