PSC, several groups urge swift end to prorogation
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has advocated for President Donald Ramotar to bring the prorogation of Parliament to an end before December 31 as it placed a menu of recommendations on the table for increased dialogue.
According to the PSC, the proposals to end the current parliamentary impasse were crafted based on consultation with representatives of various civil society organisations. “We share the view that there is still room for the life of the 10th Parliament to be preserved once the prorogation comes to an end and the No-Confidence Motion is stayed to make room for a meaningful attempt to dialogue on the important issues that will persist even after elections are held,” the PSC said on Thursday.
Based on consultations with political parties, the PSC said there was a willingness to engage in dialogue, but the Opposition parties have maintained that they will only agree to participate in dialogue if Parliament is reconvened. In addition to bringing the prorogation of Parliament to an end as soon as possible but no later than December 31, the PSC is recommending that political parties agree to a moratorium of one month after the end of the prorogation to facilitate dialogue. This, the Commission emphasised, must be done before any consideration is given to the dissolution of Parliament or the passing of the No-Confidence Motion.
“We further request that our representatives of civil society be included as observers to any dialogue process agreed upon so that we could be kept meaningfully informed as to the agreements and commitments by all parties in pursuing the interests of those they represent and hold each accountable for the delivery of results,” the PSC appealed.
During the moratorium, the PSC proposes that outstanding commissions required under the Constitution be composed and operationalised. Additionally, it was said that during this period, a date for Local Government Elections should be agreed – a date that would fall within the ambit of the 10th Parliament.
Non-assent of bills
In addition, the Commission is hoping to have a mechanism in place which resolve issues surrounding the non-assent of bills which have been passed by the National Assembly, as well as a mechanism for approval of 2014 supplementary financial papers and statements of excess.
“An inclusionary mechanism for budget talks of 2015 and 2016. This could be a meaningful start on forming a longer term agreement on Guyana’s economic development agenda.”
It is believed that the listed PSC proposals are sufficient to salvage the life of the 10th Parliament whereby previous items on the parliamentary agenda can be resuscitated including the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, the Telecommunications Bill and the Education Bills. These proposals were conveyed in the form of a letter to the President, Opposition Leader David Granger, and Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan.
These political leaders were reminded of Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana, which states: The principal objective of the political system of the state is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the state, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision making that directly affect their well-being.
The 10th Parliament, elected in free and fair general elections on November 28, 2011, is the first since Guyana’s independence where the Opposition parties hold the majority and the Government sits in minority.
The PSC said it must be accepted by all that this was the mandate given by the electorate, positing that it created an opportunity for the needs of both minority and majority stakeholders to be adequately represented and solutions negotiated for the benefit of all the citizens of Guyana. But, the opportunity is being squandered by standoffs and deadlocks to the detriment of all stakeholders.
Meanwhile, several civil society organisations have issued a joint statement calling on the President to end the prorogation. The organisations include: Transparency Institute Guyana Inc, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Blue CAPS, Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church, Guyana Bar Association, Guyana Association of Women Lawyers, Help and Shelter, and Women Across Differences. “We, the undersigned members of civil society, at this critical juncture of political uncertainty and national importance, have come together to jointly register our grave concern at the decision by His Excellency, the President to prorogue Guyana’s Parliament which is in effect a suspension of our parliamentary democracy.”
“This is a crisis of governance on all fronts and requires urgent dialogue, mediation and citizen and civil society intervention. It is unprecedented since independence and the way forward is tentative. We are concerned at the serious implications for our fragile democracy and the repercussions for fundamental citizens’ rights, business, stability and indeed all Guyanese.”
Democracy and governance
The organisations said as various civil society organisations serving “our members and all Guyanese, we recognise the vital importance of how democracy and good governance are practised by our legislature, our executive and our judiciary and the direct impact on Guyanese citizens”.
The statement said that the executive act of prorogation and the resulting suspension of the House of Representatives for possibly the next six months will significantly constrain the functioning of Parliament and further weaken a vital institution of the Constitution and Government. “During this period of political turbulence, we are concerned about whether … the affairs of the state will be practised in a manner that upholds the democratic principles of transparency, accountability, inclusion and representation, which we value.”
“We call for a swift end to prorogation, and a return to the vital role our legislature plays in the lives of citizens of Guyana, ensuring that fair laws are made, and holding the Government to account for its policies, actions, and spending on matters of paramount importance to citizens. We further recognise the urgency of harmonising our Constitution with democratic practices.”
Moreover, the groups encouraged all parliamentarians to enforce Article 13 of the Constitution more regularly. “We, the citizens, desire increased opportunities to have our voices reflected in “decision-making processes of the state that directly affect our well-being.”
The groups called on the President and his Government to swiftly exercise the options of either an immediate resumption of Parliament or holding of general elections. “We urge all our political leaders to dedicate their individual and collective efforts to repairing the fragile, weak and ineffective political culture, practice and institutions that have led to this perilous period in our nation’s history. This must be effected through a spirit of compromise, dialogue, trust and reconciliation in the interest of the betterment of Guyana and all Guyanese.