President Donald Ramotar on Saturday defended decisions he made in the past, and will likely make in the future to withhold signing into law opposition piloted legislation that he deems unconstitutional and counter-productive to democracy.
The Head of State was at the time speaking to a gathering of Berbicians at the University of Guyana, Tain Campus during the first of several events to commemorate the 21st Anniversary of the Return to Democracy
Legislations that are passed by the Parliament are sent to the President for assent, but without consensus from both government and opposition in the Parliament, President Ramotar had stated his refusal to sign any into law. This decision had sparked outrage from opposition politicians and their allies, but as President Ramotar explained today, it was as a result of the opposition’s “unconstitutional acts” in the Parliament.
“What are they using the parliament for? They are using the Parliament to undermine our constitution… the budget cuts that they made have been proven in court to be unconstitutional and every single bill that they bring in Parliament… most of the resolutions that they want to pass in the National Assembly have to do with undermining our democracy,” President Ramotar said.
On October 5, 1992, the People’s Progressive Party Civic was returned to Government after 28 years of opposition rule, marking a historic turn of events for the country and its people.
The Former President’s Benefits Bill that significantly reduced the scale of endowments a president receives upon demitting office and the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill that seeks to transfer certain functional responsibilities from the Minister of Finance to the Clerk of the National Assembly are among those that have not been signed into law.
“When I refuse to sign them it’s because I’m defending your rights; the rights of the people of this country, to protect our constitution,” President Ramotar said.
The political opposition combined, holds a one-seat majority in the Parliament, and has been using it against the Government as a way of offsetting executive powers they wish they had, President Ramotar argued.
“They want power for the sake of having power. That is why you see in the Parliament now they are preventing us from having either the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker… they want to control all the committees…they want to remove the authority of the Cabinet to give a no objection on projects,” President Ramotar said.
The opposition’s call for the establishment of a Public Procurement Commission (PPC) is to negate the role of the government to offer no objections to contracts, but President Ramotar insisted that the Government needs to maintain this power if it is to be accountable to the people who are the immediate beneficiaries of contracts and deserve value for money.
At a time when corruption has become a buzz word and fingers are often pointed at the government, President Ramotar said the current procurement system is the most transparent and can withstand scrutiny.
Similar sentiments were expressed by speakers before him, like former President Bharrat Jagdeo who fired up the crowd with his address.
“We’re not weak. No matter what they (opposition) think they have (one seat majority in the Parliament) we’re a strong party. We are Cheddi Jagan’s party,” Jagdeo said.
The former President made reference to several developmental projects that have been shot down like the Specialty Hospital and the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP).
“There is a struggle in this country… and unless all of us are aware of what that struggle is, it will creep up on us… and before we know it all that we stand for and stood for, all that we have achieved and are trying to achieve in this country will be lost,” Jagdeo said.
The gathering was held in the compound of an institution that is regarded as one of many PPP/C landmarks in the ancient county. The others are the Berbice River Bridge and the Skeldon Sugar Factory.
Hydropower is the next major undertaking that will add to the Party’s legacy and even in the face of strong opposition, Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira who was one of the speakers, said the project will become a reality.
Other speakers like Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and the PPP’s General Secretary and Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee called on supporters to maintain loyalty even in the difficult periods.