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OP-Ed: It is APNU+AFC govt’s duty to protect Guyana’s democracy

 -The Will of the People Must Never be Treated Lightly

by James Mc Allister

The APNU-AFC Government has a duty to the Guyanese people, and to our democracy to reject calls for its resignation, and continue in office. Let those who feel strongly about the no confidence motion take it up in court.

To contemplate that the will of the people could possibly be bought and sold for “thirty pieces of silver.” To think that a few men in a smoke- filled backroom could wager on our democracy; to note the many who are now prepared to turn a blind eye, it is to conclude that our democracy faces its greatest test and it is the duty of the government to stand as its protector.

A few days after the vote, Charrandass Persaud, in addressing speculations that there were corrupt inducements that determined his vote, asked the question, “What’s wrong with that?” Even in the face of Charrandass’ brazen question there is a curious case of lack of curiosity among those who have donned the cloak of pillars of society in Guyana. The Bar Association, the Trade Union Congress, and a former speaker are among those who have lost their curiosity. They are all seemingly unconcerned about the possibility of eating the fruit of the poisonous tree. They are apparently apathetic about how this precedent could corrupt our democracy beyond redemption.

Guyana is on the threshold of an oil economy. Financial titans, from foreign lands, will soon be walking among us. Imagine if we set a precedent whereby there are unaddressed speculations that parliamentarians can, or are being induced by money to decide on consequential national issues. Our democracy will no longer be in the hands of the electorate; it will be in the hands of foreign financial titans.

The government has a duty to protect us from this scenario.

Recently, many who are now speaking loudly questioned the right and authority of the president to unilaterally appoint the chairman of GECOM after the rejection of three lists submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. On that occasion, the Constitution was as clear as day on the authority of the President, and yet they questioned his actions. Listening to them then gave us the impression that the most egregious and undemocratic acts were being perpetuated. The opposition took the issue to court and lost. They then lost their voices; not a single retraction of all the hurtful things they said.

These are the same people who are now calling on the government to demit office based on provisions which are far more vague. Is it 33 or 34 votes? Was he properly seated given his dual citizenship? Was his vote in itself disqualifying given the provisions of article 156 of the Constitution? Does the government have the right to bring a motion of confidence given that it has restored its majority and is in a position to govern effectively? These are all questions that must be answered and can only be properly answered by the courts. If the government resigns, what remedy would it have if the court subsequently rules in its favor? The only reasonable and practical course of action is for the government to continue pending determination by the courts.

The right of the people to elect their government is sacred and should never be treated lightly. In this matter, we must err on the side of caution, and caution lies with the people who voted to put this government in office. We cannot have a situation where a government loses its right to govern, even though the court determines that it has that right, because of a premature resignation.