GCCI says prolonged caretaker Gov’t will result in constitutional crisis, slower economy

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The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is calling on all political leaders to respect the recent ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and the Constitution of Guyana to avoid a constitutional crisis.

In a statement on Monday, the GCCI commended the Government for accepting and understanding their caretaker status but noted that “the limitations cannot carry on for longer than 3 months.”

The organization which represents businesses in the city, said the caretaker status must not be extended “lest a constitutional crisis arises, resulting in a slower economy.”

President David Granger on Friday said while the Constitution of Guyana does not define ‘interim’, it is understood that the Government has to restrict its spending and cannot pass a National Budget.

The GCCI pointed out that the court in its ruling pointed to Peter Hogg on the definition of a caretaker government which limits the Government’s decision to those which can be reversible by a new government without undue cost or disruption.

“The necessity of a fully functional government with the full confidence of its people is instrumental to a stable business climate,” the GCCI stated as it urged that article 106 (7) of the Guyana Constitution be adhered to.

The article states that elections must be held within three months of a successful no-confidence motion.

“This is so clear and written in plain language, that the President of the CCJ stated it needed no gloss,” it added.

See full statement below:

The following shall constitute an official position of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Introduction
The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) continues to follow the developments occurring in Guyana’s political landscape. The GCCI, a private sector umbrella organization, established in 1889 by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry Act of 1889 (Chapter 89:03 of the laws of Guyana) is mandated by the Act in essence to advocate in legislative, regulatory and political arenas to foster an environment conducive to private sector development.

The GCCI, respecting the process of the right to appeal, withheld commentary on the developments in the political landscape as they unfolded. With the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the final court of appeal, having provided a ruling, as well as issuing the consequential order on July 12th, 2019, the GCCI would like to see all actors respecting the ruling of the CCJ and complying with the Constitution of Guyana.

It is imperative to note that uncertainty in the political arena has grave implications for investment, consumption and by extension, economic growth of the country. Businesses require certainty and stability in their external environment, which foster the confidence to invest; it is the role of government to provide a stable environment which is conducive to business. The Chamber feels it necessary to add its voice to these as the uncertainty about the next steps affects members and rhetoric that could be a cause for concern has been noticed.

Caretaker Government
It has become pellucid and unambiguous, following the decision of the court, that the government is now in a caretaker role. This caretaker role impairs the powers and the functioning of Government since article 106(6) of the Constitution results in the Cabinet having been resigned. In fact, the CCJ quoted Peter Hogg on the definition of a caretaker government which, when followed, results in the government limiting its activity that which is: “(a) routine, or (b) non-controversial, or (c) urgent and in the public interest, or (d) reversible by a new government without undue cost or disruption, or (e) agreed upon by the Opposition (in those cases where consultation is appropriate’).”

One can also look at the court orders stemming from the case have been specifically described by Guyanese case law, in the Elections Petition of 1997 (commonly referred to as the Esther Perreira case); an abridged version of sections 4 and 5 of the written judgement read as follow:

(4) That of necessity, to uphold the rule of law, to prevent the creation of a legal vacuum with grave consequential chaos and in the interests of effective government, the President and his Cabinet, as presently constituted, shall perform their respective functions of office…subject to the following limitations:
a. No legislation shall be introduced in Parliament except those required for the proper and timely holding of fresh -National and Regional Elections and/or in compliance with the terms of the Herdmanston Accord.
b. No substantial contracts for the execution of public works shall be awarded without the permission of this court.
c. The state-owned media shall only be used for election purposes through paid advertisements.
(5) Parliament, as presently constituted, shall continue to function for the necessary and limited purposes of enacting such legislation as is required for the proper and timely holding of fresh National and Regional Elections…and shall stand dissolved by Nomination Day.

The necessity of a fully functional government with the full confidence of its people is instrumental to a stable business climate, and as such, the GCCI urges that article 106 (7), which states that elections must be held within 3 months of a successful no confidence motion be followed as is mandated by the Constitution. This is so clear and written in plain language, that the President of the CCJ stated it needed no gloss.

Urgent Selection of GECOM Chairperson
For this to happen as mandated by the Constitution, the Chamber urges the President and the Leader of the Opposition to work together, through the constitutionally provided mechanism and, in good faith, to ensure the appointment of a Chairperson for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is made with greatest expedience.

It must be noted that the formula for selecting the Chairperson of the GECOM, was arrived at to ensure a process that allows for the President and Opposition Leader to have input at different stages. The direction and flow of the process is of important as well and must be done in a manner that allows the Opposition Leader, as a constitutional post, to have input in the selection process. Otherwise, the input by the Opposition Leader would be to no effect, defeating the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.

Conclusion
In concluding, the GCCI commends the government for accepting and understanding their caretaker status but urges the government that the limitations cannot carry on for longer than 3 months lest a constitutional crisis arises, resulting in a slower economy. There is a need for consistent engagements like the one between the President and the Opposition Leader to ensure that a Chairperson can be elected soon.

The Chamber wishes to reiterate and reemphasize its call for constitutional compliance, good faith and integrity from actors in the political arena. This is pivotal in ensuring that Guyana continues to thrive as a stable and well-functioning democracy. The Chamber also wishes to remind all political actors that they are ultimately bounded by the Constitution as well as the directive from the Court.

The Chamber wishes to remind that Guyana now has the eyes of the world watching and it would be prudent to show that despite many differences, the nation’s leaders are able to make decisions in National interest and create a stable political and economic climate. Guyana must show the world that the dark days of ‘Trouble’ during election periods no longer exist.
Let us pledge to honor always the flag of Guyana and her Constitution.

END

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