According to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, it is unlikely that Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland will risk his credibility by reviewing the passage of the no-confidence vote of December 21.
The Speaker has no power of review since it is not the Speaker who voted, he contended, adding that “for the Speaker to reverse this, he has to come up with a new interpretation of a majority and I doubt our Speaker would place his credibility on the line here.”
The government has advanced reasons to Scotland arguing that he erred in ruling that the PPP/C-sponsored no-confidence motion against the government was carried. Among the reasons is that a majority of all elected members in the 65-member House is 34 rather than 33. Charrandas Persaud had defected from the government benches to vote in favour of the motion. Attorney General Basil Williams yesterday said that if the Speaker does not reverse the ruling, the government will be moving to the courts.
Jagdeo, during a press conference held at his Church Street office yesterday, said that government has squandered its opportunity to have discussions with his party on the way forward.
“After the lofty words of the Prime Minister and President and commitment to engage on a way forward, we have seen government retreat to wild accusations and confrontation…they are squandering this opportunity with lunatic statements,” he said.
According to Jagdeo, though he is ill, President David Granger must bear responsibility for the actions of his “minions” as he remains Head of State and Head of Government.
“He issued a statement before he left talking about moving forward, respecting the Constitution and commitment to engagement yet his minions now, I believe with his approval, have gone in a totally different direction…the President has to bear responsibility for this,” he stressed. According to Jagdeo, for his part, he was willing to remain silent on the issue until the President’s return but by advancing “arguments that defy logic,” the administration has forced him to respond.
Addressing each argument, Jagdeo said that the claim about 34 being a majority is a reflection of the desperation of APNU to cling to power.
“If someone comes tomorrow and says Sunday is Monday and they think it can invalidate the no-confidence motion, they will use it to run to the court,” he chuckled.
Williams claimed yesterday that he knew all along that 34 votes were required to pass the motion but chose to remain silent so that no one else on the government side could attempt to correct the anomaly by also voting for the motion.
“They are making people laugh at us,” Jagdeo bemoaned.
Asked whether he believed a court case could delay the holding of elections within the constitutionally stipulated 90 days following the passage of the motion, Jagdeo said that such a case could be decided in weeks.
“If a matter ends up in court, it can be decided in a week or two. The CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice) heard a matter affecting elections in Barbados within one weekend so this can be settled quite quickly,” he indicated.
According to the former President, despite being advised of this argument prior to a no-confidence motion brought by the AFC in 2014, the PPP/C understood that you needed 33 votes and it only had 32 so rather than face the vote, then President Donald Ramotar prorogued parliament and called early elections.
As to the question of whether Persaud’s Canadian citizenship invalidated his vote, Jagdeo pointed to Article 165(2) of the Constitution which provides that the presence or participation of anyone not entitled to be present and or participate in the proceedings of the Assembly, shall not invalidate those proceedings.
Referring to accusations that he specifically, and the party generally, had bribed Persaud to vote in favour of the motion, Jagdeo said this is not a new accusation. He played a recording of then opposition parliamentarian Khemraj Ramjattan saying that the PPP had in 2014, offered $30 million to members of the opposition to vote against the no-confidence motion brought against the PPP/C government at that time.
Jagdeo emphasised that he will be taking legal action in relation to these new accusations.
“I have instructed my lawyers to sue the individuals involved. I think it was (Aubrey) Norton who read that statement, and all the media houses which repeated the libel if they don’t retract it,” he said.
A press statement from the PPP later rejected the “entire gamut of bribery and corruption being leveled” in relation to Persaud’s voting against the government in the no-confidence motion.
“These allegations are being hatched and spewed by a desperate group of power drunk and semi-crazed politicians who want to hold on to the reins of Government at all cost so that they can continue to pillage the treasury,” the statement said.
Reports that claimed to show social media messages of Persaud arranging the purchase of large quantities of gold were dismissed as government’s public relations attempts by Jagdeo, who argued that these things can easily be manufactured.
He referenced a reported leak of emails purporting to be from the AG’s account and reminded that Williams had said that the messages were not from his email even though the email addresses appeared to be the same.
“It’s fake news,” Jagdeo intoned before reiterating that his party will not be present at Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly.
He said that this is one area where a discussion could have proved useful as, if both sides had met and agreed to hold the sitting for the passing of a law related to elections or increasing the appropriation to the Guyana Elections Commission, his party would have been present.
“That sort of thing has to take place with the two sides prior to the sitting,” he stressed.