Desperately seeking loopholes
ROAR of Ravi Dev
Everyone has recourse in the courts to seek justice but it does appear to me that the PNC-led Coalition is losing sight of the bigger picture in our fledgling democracy as they flail around for a reason to have the no-confidence decision reversed. First, they tried (and succeeded to a large extent) to tie the country into knots over the claim that in a finite set of 65 discrete variables (meaning things that couldn’t be individually divided – like people, in this instance) a subset of 33 of them (call them “yes”) was not larger than the remaining subset of 32 (call them “no”).
Their “rationale” involved dividing the persons in halves, and then joining them back again to “round off” and get the result they wanted - that only 34 is greater than 33. Now to “solve” this conundrum of the government’s making, grown men sought high and low for what was the smallest child (or the village moron) intuitively knew. But it was painfully obvious to most Guyanese – even some of the government’s supporters – that the government was really stretching to not resign and call elections in three months.
That this was a somersault from the position they took right after the vote – when they solicited and received kudos for allowing the “democratic rules” of our Constitution to work – is vitiating the spirit of the constitution by attenuating its words, our highest law, into hot air. How will the youths of this country – who we are assured now constitute 60% of our population - ever take these politicians seriously after witnessing their verbal gymnastics and contortions on TV? Sadly, they will probably extend their cynicism to the political system as a whole, on the assumption that it encourages behavior shorn of guiding principles.
Some honour was restored to the political system, however, when the Speaker refused to entertain the government’s request to revise his ruling that 33 was greater than 32. He bluntly told them that they – and their partisans - had “provided no compelling evidence” for him to do so. That the Speaker had been previously criticized on several occasions for “taking the government’s side”, made his refusal even more important in buttressing the Parliamentary principle that his role was to be as impartial as possible: a good Speaker is one who is criticized by both sides.
The government did follow up with their threat to go to the Courts to have the no-confidence resolution reversed, but to everyone’s surprise they abandoned the “mathematical gambit” as their grounds for doing so. Instead they claimed that since Charandass Persaud held dual citizenship – and by implication had sworn allegiance to a foreign state, in his case Canada – his vote was invalid since Article 153 (1) disqualified him from being an MP.
As a matter of fact, Art 153 (1) actually does say just that – “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who – (a) is by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state…”. But it exposed the government’s desperation in jumping from limb to legal limb. This will deepen the cynicism of our young populace – and hopefully the government’s less reflexive partisans – especially when it is known this clause was inserted all the way back to 1980 when Burnham promulgated his Constitution and was never applied to disqualify any of the dozens and dozens of MP’s who held dual citizenship since then.
Even more “bare-faced” was that the same government which had just expelled Charandass Persaud as an MP, replaced him with an old-line PNC member who is also a US citizen. Very dispiritingly, the PNC-led coalition is opening a Pandora’s Box for Guyana that goes beyond metastasizing apathy in our political system. An eminent jurist informs us that presently, there are already 26 sitting MPs in our National Assembly. Are they all going to be expelled so that the government is not accused of discriminatory behavior or will use Art 155 (1) as a Sword of Damocles to dictate their consciences?
Ironically, Canada allows dual citizens from any country in the world to become MPs. This government should take a page from their book to encourage more of our diaspora – like Chandradass Persaud - to return “home”. Or do they feel that “duty free” cars compensate for being excluded in having an input in law making?