President Donald Ramotar and the People’s Progressive Party have finally destroyed the 10th Parliament. President Ramotar, after three years of subverting parliamentary democracy, prorogued Parliament on the 10th November 2014 and announced his intention to dissolve Parliament on the 28th February 2015.
President Ramotar, since the inauguration of the 10th Parliament in January 2012, has been trying to diminish the autonomy and authority of the National Assembly. He withheld assent to bills and declined to implement resolutions; brought motions in the High Court against the Speaker and Opposition Leader and launched a fierce media campaign against members of the National Assembly. APNU calls attention to President Ramotar’s abuses and assaults on parliamentary democracy:
Withholding of presidential assent: President Ramotar brazenly announced, publicly, on the 13th June 2012, that he had no intention of supporting any bill piloted by the Opposition. He said, “…I am making it very clear that I will not assent to any bill that they carry unless it is with the full agreement of the executive and the full involvement of the executive.” As a result, assent to several bills, including three local government bills – the Local Government Commission Bill, the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill and the Fiscal Transfers Bill – was delayed for three months and others, including the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, still have not been assented to.
Resorting to the High Court: President Ramotar’s second tactic has been to resort to the High Court. Attorney General Anil Nandlall filed the first Constitutional Motion in March 2012 in the High Court seeking to overturn a parliamentary vote on the composition of the Committee of Selection. He then decided to move to the courts to have the 2012 National Budget cuts reviewed and reversed.
Ministerial responsibility: President Ramotar’s third tactic was to try to shield his Ministers from parliamentary scrutiny and sanction. The ‘Anilgate’ scandal involving vulgar and scurrilous statements made by the Minister of Legal Affairs during a telephone conversation in October 2014; the ‘Priyagate’ jeering of the Minister of Education after her vulgar ‘feral blast’ in July 2014 and the ‘Ashnigate’ vehicle accident scandal in February 2014 and referral of the Minister of Finance to the Committee of Privileges indicate how little confidence the public has in PPP/C Ministers.
Parliamentary independence: President Ramotar’s fourth tactic was the prorogation of Parliament on the 10th November 2014. It was an attempt to avoid the debate on the performance of his cabinet and his presidency. Prorogation was intended to paralyse the parliamentary process. The PPP/C Administration obstructed the reconvening of parliament for one month from the 10th October to 10th November then promulgated the prorogation order.
Supremacy of the Constitution: President Ramotar’s final announced “intention to hold Local Government Elections in the Second Quarter of next year, 2015” was a lie. Local government elections, like general and regional elections, are a constitutional entitlement, not a benefaction of the Government. The announcement was designed to mislead the nation and make a mockery of the Constitution. It was a denial of democracy.
President Donald Ramotar’s dreadful broadcast to the nation on the 24th February was the nadir of his troubled three-year tenure of office and was a final insult to the people of Guyana. It destroyed the 10th Parliament and smothered the voices of the people’s legitimate representatives in the National Assembly. It drained whatever confidence the public might have had in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s commitment to parliamentary democracy.