No Commonwealth sanctions in works for Guyana
Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has dismissed concerns mounted by outing British High Commissioner Andrew Ayre that Guyana may be the subject of future sanctions by Commonwealth if a date is not named for General and Regional Elections.
In a Facebook post the Foreign Affairs Minister explained that as far as she is aware Guyana is not the subject of any impending sanction by the commonwealth body. She explained that she is a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) under whose responsibility such an action would fall. CMAG is a group of representatives of members of the Commonwealth of Nations that is responsible for upholding the Harare Declaration. That Declaration dictates the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values, and sets the core membership criteria of the organisation.
“I am advised that the Commonwealth Secretariat has no knowledge of any sanctions being planned for Guyana. One Member of the Commonwealth cannot impose its individual wishes on all others and speak as if the Commonwealth has made such a decision. It is dishonest to do that. Further I sit on the Commonwealth body (CMAG) that deals with such issues and Guyana is not on the agenda,” said Rodrigues-Birkett via her Facebook.
She was directly contradicting the British High Commissioner who, when asked about the UK lobbying for sanctions to be imposed on Guyana among Commonwealth Member States, posited that at present there are “discussions” among Commonwealth countries with respect to the prevailing situation in Guyana. He pointed out that “Guyana is moving towards a category of concern for the Commonwealth that is quite clear from discussions that are taking place among them.”
Birkett went on to contend that the threat of sanction from the Western Superpower (ABC countries) is nothing new noting that similar threats were made for in an effort to force the administration to name a date for the hosting of local government polls sometime back.
“The threat of sanctions from the High Commissioner is not new. That very threat was made regarding Local Government Elections. Yet when a date by which the elections was slated to be held was announced by President Ramotar, it appeared no longer important enough to encourage the other parties to work together to see it materialize. That threat was also not that veiled when Guyana voted a particular way on an issue at the UN. Of course we were vindicated on the latter with recent developments” she declared.
It was also pointed out that twice in the past Canada has seen its parliament being prorogued however Canada did not suffer a similar fate as is seen in the case of Guyana with the threat of sanctions being imposed on ABC country.
She questioned “did you hear any Commonwealth country upbraiding them? Guyana has diplomatic relations with most countries of the world and we work hard on developing good relations. However, mutual respect must be the order of the day.”
According to Rodrigues-Birkett the comparison made by Ayre of Guyana to Fiji would be completely “off the mark” and “unkind” given that similar situations do not persist. She contended that “President Ramotar did not commit an illegality. He acted in keeping with the Constitution and has already said a date for elections will be announced shortly. Guyana has already alerted the Commonwealth that we will be requesting an observer Mission. The HC cannot be so unaware.”
Ayre on Monday said that the continued prorogation of Parliament was against the commonwealth charter warning of possible sanctions for Guyana. The Commonwealth Charter, which was agreed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting [CHOGM] in Perth in 2011, is a single document which sets out the Commonwealth’s 16 core values and reflects the aspiration of Commonwealth members. It identifies development for poorer countries and improving human rights and democracy, as the key priorities for the Commonwealth.
He pointed to several key fundamentals outlined in this Charter and called on the President to honour the obligations and either resume Parliament or announce a date for General and Regional Elections. None of the “fundamentals” explicitly touch on the issue of prorogation which is a power allocated to the Head of State in most Commonwealth countries, including Britain. According to Ayre, UK’s representatives have held meetings with the Government on the issue of prorogation, but have not received any positive response. “We made our views quite clear both in private meeting with the Government and in public statements … the reality is we have a Guyanese problem and we need a Guyanese solution … let’s be clear the President is the one that can end this impasse,” the British High Commissioner said.
When asked about funding for several projects underway in which the UK played the critical role of donor, it was noted that these projects may be in jeopardy, with some “reluctance” to provide developmental funds to Guyana from the UK.
“Without the Parliament, there is no parliamentary oversight … clearly the appetite to send money to a country that has no parliamentary oversight is much reduced … there’s a reluctance to send development funds, how can we justify that to our own taxpayers?” Ayre questioned.