After witnessing the near collapse of democracy and the attempt by the APNU+AFC to deny the electorate the right to elect a government of their choice in Guyana during the five unnerving months, the people should not place any trust in the leaders. The coalition government knew that it had lost the election but had refused to concede power to the PPP after being in office for only five years compared to 23 years of PPP rule. It was a colossal, tragic and pitiful mistake by the Granger administration not to accept the results of polls, to put the nation through five months of anguish was futile, nonsensical and silly. And most of them in the APNU+AFC have paid dearly for the mistake in that it has led to severe U.S. sanctions, which could have been avoided if they were honest. Losing an election is not losing one’s life and it is not the end of the world either. The wise thing for them to do is to concede and then prepare for the next election.
No one should have been surprised by the attempt by APNU+AFC to hold on to power illegally because after the no confidence motion was passed in December 2018, the leaders of APNU+AFC held on to power for 15 months instead of the three months allotted by the constitution for new election. It was a clear violation the Article 106 (6) of the Constitution which reads, “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the government is defeated by a vote of majority of all elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” And Article 106 (7) says “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.” Despite their clarity, the Granger cabal has not only ignored the two Articles of the Constitution, but they spent tens of millions of the taxpayers’ money in legal fees trying to reverse the no confidence and to overturn the election results. In all of the cases, the Constitution prevail.
As reported several times in Kaieteur News and other media outlets, governments past and present have on numerous occasions violated the Constitution. So why the people should expect the leader of the coalition to acknowledge that he lost the election and demit office. In Guyana, politicians do not easily give up power or resign even when there is an abundance of evidence that they have made grave errors, commit wrongdoings, involved in corrupt or other illegal practices or have flagrantly violated the rule of law. The reason is, there exists a culture of obscenity and unethical conduct among politicians and senior public officials because of their higher status in society.
At times, the two major parties when in opposition, would call on members of the governing party to resign in the face of alleged corrupt practices or wrong doings, but as expected, they never did. Maybe some with a modicum of decency may capitulate under pressure and resign, but it will not be the call from either of the two parties that would make them do it. It would more likely be a judgement call based on their integrity, or a decision taken by the President based on the exigencies of the situation and the possible political fallout in the court of public opinion. Regrettably, calls for resignation are not taken seriously by our politicians. Such calls are seen merely by most, if not all as political mischief or one-upmanship or as propaganda stunts to score cheap political points. However, some political pundits have opined that the main reason why there is not an established code of ethics or conduct for politicians, is because both parties would be seen as being weak should they discipline their members for wrongdoings. It is hypocritical!
The truth is governments have not even broached the subject of having a code of ethics or conduct for Members of Parliament, or the cabinet. To put it bluntly, a code of ethics or conduct would only be established when civil society and influential interest groups rise up and join in the foray to force governments to recognize that decency dictates that a code of ethics or conduct is needed to hold politicians and governments accountable. Resigning from public office is not easy because of the shame associated with it, but it is critical and ethical to do so in order to maintain the integrity of the office. It should be a defining moment for the country that is woven into a fabric of decency, honesty and professional judgement. The Greek Philosopher, Parmenides who founded the Eleatic School of Philosophy which influenced Western philosophy around 475 BC said: “The option for public servants to resign reinforces integrity, buttresses responsibility and supports accountability. It is not an act of weakness, but an ethical action which manifests the nature of public servants in inglorious events that happen while governing.” It is said that one of the greatest threats to democracy and good governance is leadership that shuns ethics and morality and put personal aggrandizement and party interests before those of the people and the country. Too much of this practice is rooted in Guyana’s body politic. We must replace it with a code of ethics/conduct and good governance which is basically accountability and transparency.
Dr. Asquith Rose.