“No-confidence motions” are an integral aspect of parliamentary democracy, since it tests the legitimacy of the government by ensuring they have majority support in the Assembly. It was entrenched in our Constitution in Article 106 (6) and (7). But to hear representatives of the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), including the Prime Minister, tell it, it is tantamount to an illegitimate overthrow of the Government. But as the courts deal with the rearguard action by the PNC/AFC combine to hold on to power, we need to grapple with the fundamental contradictions of our political system that sustain their actions.Way back in 1963, the Secretary of the State for the Colonies stated the problem concisely, after the leaders of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP); PNC and United Force (UF) could not reach agreement on a way forward on constitutional measures after ethnic violence had wracked the country:“…the Premier (Dr Jagan) told me that if the British troops were withdrawn, the situation would get completely out of control. The root of the trouble lies entirely in the development of party politics along racial lines….Both parties (PPP and PNC) have, for their political ends, fanned the racial emotions of their followers, with the result that each has come to be regarded as the champion of one race and the enemy of the other.“The Africans accuse the Government party of governing in the interests only of the Indians, and demand a share in political decisions. On the other side, the Indians accuse the Police, which is mainly African, of partiality towards the Africans and demand the creation of a separate defence force, recruited more extensively from the Indian community, to counterbalance the Police.”In its proposals, the British pointed out that there was the need, in general, “to protect minorities” and in particular, to address “the racial nature of the problem”. For the latter problem, “the Government should endeavour to rule with the general consent of the population … (and a new armed force) …should be constituted before Independence by the Governor, who would endeavour to ensure that recruits were not drawn predominantly from any one racial group.”The British recognised that under present conditions, neither the PPP or PNC would be able “to increase appreciably its following among the other racial groups”. They then submitted, “…it must be our deliberate aim to stimulate a radical change in the present pattern of racial alignments. It was therefore my duty to choose the electoral system which would be most likely to encourage inter-party coalitions and multi-racial groupings”. Finally, they concluded, “proportional representation would be likely to result in the formation of a coalition government of parties supported by different races, and that this would go some way towards reducing the present tension.”Sadly, while the British had a very good diagnosis of what ailed Guyana, their prescription of “proportional representation” alone was inadequate to fulfil the stated goals. The proposals were fatally flawed because of the British’s prior agreement with the Americans to remove Dr Jagan and the PPP from office. There were no structural changes that went to the nature of the conflict – PR, on its own, was simply a device to allow the PNC and the UF to coalesce and elbow out the PPP. As a consequence of the “Mexican stand-off” that has existed over the last half century, Guyanese politics has become so divisive that today the country teeters on the precipice of becoming a failed state.In terms of its passage towards democracy, Guyana has now gone backwards by every objective standard, after the gains after 1992 under the PPP regime, which replaced the PNC 28-year dictatorship. The PPP, under President Bharrat Jagdeo, for instance, had worked to eliminate the US$2.1 billion debt that had crippled the economy and returned sustained growth. The refusal of the PNC/AFC coalition to adhere to democratic norms puts Guyana at risk of sliding back into anarchy and poverty.All Guyanese must practise militant democracy to prevent this possibility, but also insist that going forward our democratic institutions are inclusive of all groups.
– Minister Bulkan silentIn clear violation of the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01, Linden Mayor Carwyn Holland on Thursday decided to unilaterally send Town Clerk Jenella Bowen on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, which is before Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan. Only the Communities Minister in the absence of a Local Government Commission is vested with the power to make that decision.Holland and the Linden Mayor and Town Council (LMTC) had passed two no-confidence motions against Bowen and subsequently wrote Minister Bulkan requesting she be removed. But Minister Bulkan is still to make a decision, which seemingly angered Holland, prompting him to decide to take his own action against the Town Clerk.Linden Town Clerk Jenella BowenGuyana Times has seen a letter dated October 6, 2016 that Holland wrote to Bowen, instructing that she proceed on administrative leave with immediate effect until the conclusion of “the hearing”.“Please be informed that the Ministry of Communities has reviewed the Council’s recommendation and granted no objection,” the letter copied to Communities Ministry Permanent Secretary Emile McGarrel and the LMTC Personnel Officer stated.It went on to highlight that the LMTC proceeded in accordance with the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:0, Section 8 A, Subsection G, which states that the Council shall “ensure that the municipality is managed in a professional and competent manner by a qualified Town Clerk” and Section 8 A, Subsection H, which states that the Council “shall perform any other duties or functions imposed on the Council by this or any other law or by the Council”. Subsequently, the Mayor; his deputy, Waneka Arrindell and two senior Police Officers reportedly showed up at the home of the Town Clerk and demanded that she hand over all of the Council’s belongings to them.However, nowhere in the cited act is the Council given the authority to discipline or remove from office the Town Clerk.When contacted, Bowen told Guyana Times that she made attempts to contact Minister Bulkan, but those attempts were unsuccessful; however, she was able to speak with Permanent Secretary McGarrel who advised that she comply with the instructions of the Council.McGarrel confirmed this to Guyana Times , but stated that his advice was to defuse any possible “physical” confrontation. He declined to answer any other question on the issue.Efforts to contact Minister Bulkan proved futile, as calls to his office and mobile phones went unanswered. But a call to his residence was answered and after a prolonged delay, Guyana Times was told he was not at home at that time.Bowen said she has since sought legal advice on the way forward, but could not say if she would report for duty today.The Mayor’s action was deemed unconstitutional, since Section 118 of the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01 clearly states that in the absence of a Local Government Commission, the Communities Minister holds the power to appoint, discipline and disappoint any Local Government Officer.Section 120 of the Act states; “The power to exercise disciplinary control over Local Government Officers (including the power to remove them from office) shall be exercised by the Commission or other person or authority in whom such power is vested under Section 118 or Section 119 in accordance with any rules pertaining to discipline made by the Commission under Section 114.”Section 121 adds that where a Local Government Officer is disciplined, including removal from office by anyone other than the Commission or its designate, the officer can appeal that decision, which the Council or its designate can confirm, set aside or vary any finding on such persons or authority and to confirm, quash or vary any penalty awarded.Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, in an invited comment on Thursday evening, said that Town Clerks, like Regional Executive Officers (REOs), are creatures of the Minister and it is only him who can discipline or dismiss them.He said what was playing out at the Linden municipality was purely authoritarian action by the Mayor and his gang.“Again we are witnessing authoritarianism and a clear violation of the rule of law. The municipality has no authority to discipline or dismiss the Town Clerk: the Town Clerk is a creature of the Minister,” Nandlall, a respected lawyer, opined.He said the actions by Holland and others in Linden and the silence of Bulkan may very well be a sign of the Minister’s weak leadership skills.The spat between Bowen and several Councillors, including Holland and Arrindell, began after she accused the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of spending over $500,000 on travel expenses from the already depleted coffers of the Town Council.The Linden Town Council has not met in more than two months and when contacted last week, Holland told Guyana Times that he was unable to get a quorum for the meetings as Councillors were anxiously awaiting Minister Bulkan’s ruling on the Town Clerk.