Warning that the reconvening of the National Assembly next Thursday for routine purposes would be illegal, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that his party will not be in attendance unless the sitting is held to deal specifically with elections’ preparation matters.
“Anything passed in that period, in this kind of situation… If the government were to persist with this, then that will not be recognised. We will not recognise anything that they pursue or do in the Parliament excepting those related to the conduct of the elections,” Jagdeo said shortly after briefing representatives of the major western missions on the recent passage of the no-confidence motion against the APNU+AFC government and outlining his party’s concerns.
After a six-hour debate last week Friday, the PPP/C-sponsored no-confidence motion passed following a `yes’ vote from government MP Charrandas Persaud. The passage of the motion has sent the Granger administration scampering to examine all legal options.
Speaking to reporters at his Church Street office, Jagdeo said that the opposition is not inclined to attend parliament unless government meets before Thursday.
“No. We are not going to go unless we have a discussion with the government before that and we set out the parameters about what we would be discussing in parliament and those parameters…must be confined to the holding of elections within the constitutionally imposed deadline,” he insisted.
He said that the party is not rushing anything as it is well aware that the president is abroad receiving medical treatment. “We will await his return for that meeting. They could have met with us even before his return and brief him [after] but if the president wants to meet, we will await the return,” he said.
Jagdeo told reporters that “the parliament can’t go on as though nothing has happened. The government fell. This was certified by the Speaker who is the head of the legislature. He announced it in unambiguous terms that the motion of no-confidence against the overnment was successful. The Clerk
certified that and notified me,” he said.
The former president stressed that the legislative branch has made a decision and this has to be respected. “The consequence of that decision, the passage of the no-confidence motion is that the government should resign. The government has fallen. You cannot then return to the National Assembly as though nothing happened to pass routine bills and to carry on with the other functions of the government. They are in a caretaker responsibility,” he said before making reference to the holding of elections in three months as is outlined in the constitution.
“So I can envisage a need to convene the Parliament for the purpose either of passing laws relating to elections if GECOM needs those laws for the fair conduct of elections, or alternatively should there be an agreement to shift the timeline from three months to maybe three and a half months,” he said.
Asked if he is inclined to accept a proposal for an elections date beyond the 90-day period, Jagdeo said the discussion with government will have to focus on that issue. “I don’t want to be categorical on those issues at this point in time…” he said.
Meantime, Jagdeo informed reporters that he met with officials of the US, Canadian and British missions as well as the European Union (EU).
The meeting lasted for about an hour and was held at Jagdeo’s office. After it ended, the four representatives huddled together just outside the entrance of the building but quickly dispersed as reporters approached them for a comment.
“It was a good meeting,” one of them said before entering his vehicle. The others did not respond favourably to requests for a comment.
Jagdeo informed that he has been meeting with several groups of people to inform them of the party’s position on the no-confidence motion and the preparation for elections. After saying that the party’s position has already been ventilated in the public, Jagdeo said that he has made it clear to the international community that after March 19th, the members of the parliamentary opposition will treat the government, if elections are not held by that date, “as illegitimate, unconstitutional and that no act that they engage in internationally or locally would be recognised and this will have major implications for Guyana, for investors and for all concerned.”
Jagdeo said that the party has also urged the diplomatic community to be involved in the process of free and fair elections through the various organisations they have supported in the past. He also expressed a desire for a “massive” observer group from all the agencies that traditionally observe elections in Guyana, including Caricom, the EU, the Organisation of American States, the Carter Center and the Commonwealth.
According to Jagdeo, he also made it clear that the party is very concerned about the “shenanigans” that seem to be brewing given government’s indication that they are exploring legal and other options on the passage of the no-confidence motion, even after accepting the results. He added that the government in a mode of desperation, seemingly wants to reverse its acceptance.
Sources have indicated that government has accepted views that 33 votes does not constitute a majority and that 34 votes were needed to successfully pass the motion. Sources have said too that after a review of this opinion as well as the examination of other legal and constitutional implications of the vote, the government has decided that a letter will be penned to the Speaker. Depending on his response, the matter will be taken before the courts.
“I said to them we will not accept that (reversal of acceptance) in the People’s Progressive Party and that obviously there would be instability in the country if this were to happen,” Jagdeo told reporters. He added that the opposition has made it clear that it will not accept a judicial coup.
Jagdeo was asked whether he raised the non-resignation of the government with the diplomats and whether he has gotten any commitment with regards to some of the issues raised.
In responding, he said he did not seek commitments from the international representatives but rather just briefed them on what has happened and stated his party’s position.
“I expressed concern that the government has not resigned as yet…The constitution is so explicit and so when they say the cabinet is meeting but what cabinet, because the cabinet and the president under Article 106 (6) should have resigned by now and they should only have caretaker responsibility and I have made it clear that the People’s Progressive Party will not go back to the National Assembly excepting for the purpose, any purpose relating to the conduct of elections. No other business,” he stressed.
Jagdeo declined to say how the diplomats reacted to the concerns raised. “I thought the briefing went well,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jagdeo accused the government of using the time that the president is away to explore legal options to reverse what was done rather than instilling calm in the country.
Stressing that the passage of the motion is “irreversible,” he said that the government is “breaching the trust and the goodwill…that could have been developed in this period so we would have a good meeting when the president returns.”
Jagdeo later expressed comfort with the voters’ list in its current form. “We used this list for local government elections and so as flawed as the list is, we had a fairly decent local government elections,” he said. He reminded that previously, the opposition had recommended a simple process to clean the existing list of names of persons who have died without having to go to house-to-house registration. He said that this process would not be costly but he did not say whether their recommendation was considered.