GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday December 24, 2018 – Guyanese will head to the polls in the early part of next year after the government fell in a no-confidence vote supported by a member of the ruling A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)-Alliance For Change (AFC) coalition.
In a shocking move that his AFC and other parliamentary colleagues described as a betrayal, backbencher Charrandas Persaud voted with the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) legislators last Friday evening in a no-confidence motion brought against government by Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo. The ruling coalition won a one-seat majority in the 65-seat National Assembly in the 2015 general elections.
Persaud has since been expelled from the AFC while the government says it will abide by the outcome of the vote, which has triggered plans for elections to be held within 90 days.
“We will do everything necessary to facilitate the smooth functioning of general and regional elections bearing in mind the need for normal governmental functions to continue uninterrupted,” President David Granger said over the weekend, as he stressed that “this is not a crisis which could dissolve into any type of confrontation.”
“This is a constitutional process which can have favourable outcomes for the nation…There is no cause for alarm and there are no grounds for any form of disorder and we will continue to work to provide a good government and deliver public services to the people and to work even more closely with the opposition.”
Article 106 (7) of the Constitution of Guyana states that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the elections.”
Granger added that he was anxious to meet with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
“Mr Jagdeo contacted the Minister of State and a meeting will be arranged as early as possible so that his concerns can be addressed,” he said.
Persaud’s support for the no-confidence motion came as a clear shock to his fellow MPs, some of whom loudly and repeatedly urged him to change his vote. Those closest to him could be heard using expletives as they pushed him to change his mind and side with the government.
But speaking to the media after emerging from the National Assembly, he told reporters that his ‘yes’ was a conscience vote and dismissed suggestions that he had been offered any money or position by the PPP to vote against the government.
“My conscience was stifled for long,” the attorney said. “If I die now because people may not be happy with what I have done I will die a happy person. I will have a clear conscience.”
But in a statement issued over the weekend, the AFC said Persaud had never indicated he was dissatisfied with the administration and, in fact, voted just two weeks ago to support the 2019 Budget presented to the National Assembly after making “a spirited, positive contribution to the debate in which he also denounced the opposition”.
“The party can state, categorically, that at no time did Mr Persaud express that he had lost confidence in the APNU+AFC Coalition Government, its policies, programmes and vision. To the contrary, he gave his solemn commitment, on more than one occasion, that he will vote resoundingly against the motion,” it stated.
“The AFC acknowledges that this unforeseen development would have come as a shock to many Guyanese in Guyana and the Diaspora and that persons would be distraught and hurt by it. The Disciplinary Committee of the AFC has met and expelled Mr Persaud and the party has initiated the process of his recall as a Member of Parliament.”
Persaud had indicated after his surprise vote, however, that he would be offering his resignation to the AFC and would not be returning to the National Assembly as an MP for the party.
The AFC said it has begun to plan, prepare and mobilize for elections and will be engaging supporters; its coalition partner, the APNU; and the people of Guyana, on the way forward.
“The AFC assures its supporters and all Guyanese that it remains unwaveringly committed to the APNU+AFC coalition government,” it added.