‘Fallacious’ to suggest businesses significantly affected by No-Confidence motion – AG
By Bibi Khatoon
Attorney General Basil Williams on Monday evening said it is “fallacious” to suggest that the business community is significantly affected by the current political climate.
Speaking during a panel discussion on the “The implications of the Caribbean Court of Justice’s ruling on the business climate in Guyana,” the AG noted that “it is fallacious to suggest there is a downturn in business.”
The panel discussion was held by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown.
The Attorney General was on the panel with General Secretary of A New and United Guyana (ANUG) and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran, SC along with People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Executive and Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.
Both Ramkarran and Nandlall, who presented earlier, said the business community is being stymied by the Government’s refusal to set a date for general and regional elections.
This view was supported by some of the business persons in attendance including President of the Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Mohamed Rafeek who noted that “business gone down by 30-35 percent in Berbice.”
But the AG said, “this fake information needs to stop,” noting that the APNU+AFC Coalition Government has contributed to ensuring a level playing field for businesses to operate.
The Attorney General referenced the developing oil and gas industry where he explained that all of the money derived from the sector is pumped back into the economy.
But Nandlall in his presentation had noted that the Government is always the largest spender in the country, thereby pushing other sectors. With that now limited, he said the economic and social progress will be plunged into a downward spiral.
However, the Attorney General said while the Government has acknowledged its interim status, it does not prohibit the signing of commercial contracts. He said it is controversial contracts which needs to be avoided.
“There is nothing stopping the [Attorney General] Chambers from entering into commercial contracts,” Williams said.
On July 12, the Court ordered that the constitutional timeline for the holding of elections after such a motion has been passed –three months –must be honoured.
The Court also said the Government is in an interim or caretaker mode, restricting its ability to perform its duties, including the signing of major contracts.
What happens after September 18?
Nandlall and Ramkarran argued that elections should be held by September 18 as the three-month constitutional deadline for the holding of elections began when the CCJ handed down its ruling on June 18.
As such, Nandlall said the current business climate will only get worse after September 18 if the Government continue its insistence on House to House registration which he believes is a ploy to delay the elections.
“No one will invest in a country where the Government is unlawful… Naturally, investors will not come since it cannot enter into lawful contracts,” the former Attorney General said.
Nandlall said the Government is showing its political culture of lack of democracy.
“The orders of the CCJ has simply created a platform for us to see the type of environment the Government is prepared to create… is those who are refusing to comply with the orders are exposing the business community to the hazards,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Ramkarran in his remarks said the Court should not have to tell the political actors to adhere to the constitution.
He said there are several questions looming: “What happens after September 18? What does the business community do? Do they sign contracts? Will the contracts be valid after then?… Nobody knows what happen after September 18.”
Ramkarran is currently representing Attorney Chris Ram in a case before the High Court calling on GECOM to begin preparing for elections. That ruling is set for August 14.
While President David Granger has said he is waiting on GECOM to advise him on a date for elections, Ramkarran said the President has the right to issue the proclamation.
The former Speaker of the House said it is now for the court to be definitive in its judgement.
“We are about to have another round of court cases to decide what the lawyers started out in January asking the court to do- declare when elections are due,” he said.
However, the Attorney General, who has been arguing that the timeline for holding elections passed since March 21, told those gathered that “it is erroneous to suggest that the 18th of September is the drop-dead date.”
“They are wrong,” Williams said but he was unable to provide answers to some questions raised.