Private Sector says President not honouring constitution; calls for elections within ‘prescribed time’

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The Private Sector Commission (PSC) Wednesday said President David Granger is not honouring the country’s constitution and by his actions is putting all private sector entities and organisations at risk.

The PSC’s statement follows last Friday’s final declarations by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which upheld the passage of the December 21, 2018 No Confidence Motion.

Article 106 (6) of the Constitution says that the President and Cabinet shall resign on the passage of a No-Confidence motion. Additionally, article 106 (7) states that, notwithstanding its defeat in the National Assembly, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election.

“It is totally unacceptable, therefore, to the Commission that the President has refused to honour the Constitution in announcing that the Cabinet shall continue to function,” the PSC stated.

It added: “It is the Private Sector’s view that the President, by his behaviour, has put at risk all private sector entities and other organisations made subject to contracts and any other action authorized by the Cabinet, by presuming them to be legal.

“The Private Sector Commission has, therefore, advised its members to seek legal advice in this regard.”

Following the July 12 orders of the CCJ, the Government on Saturday last accepted that it is an ‘interim’ Government but emphasized that it will still hold Cabinet meetings to provide public services.

But the PSC does not believe the Cabinet meetings should be held.

“The Caribbean Court has stated that “by convention the government is expected to behave during this interim period as a caretaker and so restrain the exercise of its legal authority,” the PSC noted.

The CCJ also urged the President, the National Assembly and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to abide by the letter and spirit of the clear constitutional provisions of a No Confidence vote – that elections should be held in three months.

The PSC says that the constitution is clear and that elections should be held in the prescribed time.

“In the view of the PSC, once the GECOM Chairman has been appointed, it’s incumbent, therefore, upon GECOM to prepare itself for the holding of elections within the period prescribed in the Constitution.”

The private sector recognized Article 106 (7) of the constitution that the government remains in place, but said “it cannot be business as usual and that, as the CCJ has judged, his government “is on a different footing from that which existed prior to the vote of No Confidence”.

According to the PSC, the CCJ delivered its ruling just under some seven months since the vote of No Confidence in Government was passed in the National Assembly.

“During this period, our country has been forced to stand in waiting, our economy, investment and the business of the country made to suffer, while a general environment of uncertainty has prevailed across the country.”

See full PSC statement below:

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has given the most serious consideration to the Judgment of the Caribbean Court of Justice delivered on 12th July, 2019. This Judgment has been delivered just under some seven (7) months since the vote of No Confidence in government was passed in the National Assembly on 21st December, 2018. During this period, our country has been forced to stand in waiting, our economy, investment and the business of the country made to suffer, while a general environment of uncertainty has prevailed across the country.

The further necessity that the President and the Leader of the Opposition, as urged by the international community, uphold the rule of law since the Judgment of the Court and respect the Constitution, to avoid the consequences of confusion or possible chaos in our country, informs the position of the Private Sector Commission in making this statement.

The Caribbean Court has confirmed the validity of the vote of No Confidence. The Court, in its Judgment, has emphasized that “the rule of law in Guyana rests in large measure with the conduct of the various branches of government, that is, the President and the Cabinet, the Parliament and the Judiciary”. The Court has called upon our government to “be faithful to the spirit and letter of the Constitution and operate within the parameters given to each by the Constitution”.

The Court has made plain that the provisions of our Constitution and “their meaning is clear”, and the Court, holds that “it is the responsibility of constitutional actors in Guyana to honour them”.

It is the considered view of the Private Sector that this responsibility abides first, and foremost, with President David Granger and that it is his bounden and inherent political duty to uphold this responsibility.

The Court, has quite properly, restrained from “the issuance of coercive orders or detailed directives” to our national leaders but asserted that it is for the President and, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition “guided by the constitutional imperatives” to ensure that the consequences of the No Confidence motion are imposed upon the government. The Private Sector wishes to note some seven (7) months have passed and they are yet to be acted upon.

The Caribbean Court had earlier ruled that the unilateral appointment by President Granger of the Chairman of the GECOM was “flawed” and that the President, in fact, had therefore acted in contravention of the constitutional requirement to appoint the Chairman from six (6) names submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. The Private Sector Commission, therefore, calls upon the President to act expeditiously in fulfilling his constitutional responsibility in this regard.

The Caribbean Court has pointed out in its Judgment that “Article 106 of the Constitution invests in the President and the National Assembly (and implicitly in GECOM) responsibilities that impact on the precise timing of the elections which must be held”.

Article 106 (7) of the Constitution leaves no room for interpretation in the view of the Private Sector Commission, when it states that “notwithstanding its defeat, the government shall remain in office, and shall hold an election in three (3) months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine”. In the view of the PSC, once the GECOM Chairman has been appointed, it’s incumbent, therefore, upon GECOM to prepare itself for the holding of elections within the period prescribed in the Constitution.

The Private Sector Commission wishes to remind President Granger that the Court, in its declaration and orders, has stated that “upon the passage of the motion of No Confidence in the government” on the 21st December, 2018, “that clear provisions of Article 106 immediately become engaged”, that is, that “the Cabinet, including the President, shall resign if the government is defeated”.  It is totally unacceptable, therefore, to the Commission that the President has refused to honour the Constitution in announcing that the Cabinet shall continue to function.

The Caribbean Court has stated that “by convention the government is expected to behave during this interim period as a caretaker and so restrain the exercise of its legal authority”. It is the Private Sector’s view that the President, by his behaviour, has put at risk all private sector entities and other organisations made subject to contracts and any other action authorized by the Cabinet, by presuming them to be legal. The Private Sector Commission has, therefore, advised its members to seek legal advice in this regard.

The Private Sector Commission, of course, recognizes, as stated in the Constitution at Article 106 (7), that “the government shall remain in office” until such time as National and Regional Elections are held, but urges upon the President that he recognize and understand that it cannot be business as usual and that, as the CCJ has judged, his government “is on a different footing from that which existed prior to the vote of No Confidence”.

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