Maintaining that the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) will only return to the National Assembly to deal with setting a definitive date for general elections, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said he foresees a constitutional crisis as government is still to act with just over a month left before the constitutional deadline.
“We have no choice now but to stick with March 19th, which is what the constitution says,” Jagdeo told a press conference yesterday.
“There is no date I have in mind outside of March 19th,” he further stressed, before adding that the PPP/C will not return to Parliament unless it is to deal with a “finite date for elections.”
Government is currently challenging the validity of a motion of no-confidence passed against it in the National Assembly. With the passage of the motion, the constitution stipulates that Cabinet, including the President, is to resign and elections are to be held within three months, unless an extension is agreed to by a two-thirds majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly.
With its appeals pending in the Court of Appeal, government has said it will be “business as usual” until the case is adjudicated and it has signaled that it is prepared to proceed all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Jagdeo yesterday also reiterated that he would not seek any meeting with the president to discuss any matter outside elections as the PPP/C will not be party to the constitution’s violation by having government extend the 90-day period within which polls are to be held without merit.
“We must be complicit with APNU to violate the constitution by not doing anything within the 90-day period?” he asked.
He said he fears government would seek an extension in order to avert a constitutional crisis and would then seek to further its time in office. “Something else would always come up,” he suggested.
He believes that after the deadline has passed, those in government who would have contributed to the failure to act to resolve the situation should be sanctioned by the international community.
“We will be calling on the international community for sanctions for violating democracy,” he said as he pointed out that he has taken note of some leaders in other countries being sanctioned, although he did not name any.
Jagdeo said he wants the international community to impose hard sanctions, such as taking away travel visas and blocking travel for those persons found complicit. “Will the ministers still be able to use vehicles and state assets? My take is no…if they do so, they can face personal liabilities. We will be calling for international sanctions on persons in the government for violating democracy.
Jagdeo said that while he waits to see “how it will unfold,” it is clear that Guyana would face a constitutional crisis as he believes that government officials will seek to carry out functions as per normal.
Pointing to a recording of then opposition leader David Granger in 2014, when the AFC had itself tabled a no-confidence motion against the PPP/C government, Jagdeo said Granger warned that the then administration would send the country into a “pariah state” if it did not comply with the constitution. “We will give that clip to the international community to show how Guyana should be treated in those circumstances. They are pushing us into a situation where this country could be harmed …and they are exposing us to more hardships,” he said
“I see the debate is about what will happen but everyone is clear the government will become unconstitutional… this will present major problems for the army and the police to take instructions from an unconstitutional government…,” he added.
Jagdeo noted that he this week met with members of the Carter Center, who are here on a fact-finding mission, and he laid out his case for sticking to the March deadline.
Asked for specifics of the meeting, he said, “Things similar to what I have said [before]. We spoke about the consequences of a March 19th deadline being passed. About how the government is the same old government the group that President Carter met during the pre-1992 era. That they just dusted off themselves a bit, they wear some modern clothes now but it is the same figures. They will respect no constitution, they will respect no law for the country …It is the same group and they are revealing themselves to all Guyanese. The Carter Center we told them about this and we expect the same sort of behaviour,” he said.
“They are here in a fact-finding mission. I leave it there. That is what they said and we served them up with some facts,” he added.
He hopes when the group complete its work here that it will share the information with other organisations and foreign embassies, especially the United States government.
“I hope they will disseminate it widely so that the world will see the true nature of the beast that we have that is called the government—this geriatric useless cabal,” he said.
“The thing is, I have it made it clear about what the circumstances are. I know they met with the government. I suspect they listened to them. I don’t know what they told them. But we expect the facts that they would have gathered here would show a clear pattern of behaviour of APNU and violation of the constitution and an unwillingness to respect the laws of Guyana. We hope they share the information with other organisations they have reach with… We hope the US government will get a copy of it, but we ourselves have been speaking to the US government, through its representatives here and other governments too, like Canada and the UK, EU and other diplomatic people who are present. That is what we are hoping for—widespread dissemination—because the international community needs to know what is going on here,” he added.