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Dr. J.A. George P. Irish a fallen icon

Dr. James J.A. George P. Irish

With an event such as the passing of such as Montserratian Dr. George Irish in the USA, the information moves very quick far and wide, especially in today’s information ‘age’, socially and otherwise.

So it was, that after this information was shared on December 23, 2018, requesting, “Urgent intercessory prayer for Dr. Irish (George).  He was taken to Einstein Hospital, (New York…He needs a miracle. .and we believe God!  Let’s pray.”

Later news on confirmation from reliable sources, it was reported that he was stable and that the diagnosis that had been circulated (as happens in Social media) was incorrect.

Nothing further until the sudden news on the evening of February 12, 2019, “It is with painful/aching hearts we announce the passing of “DR. GEORGE IRISH (Dr. JAGPI)” our beloved brother and friend.  We have all prayed and asked the Lord to heal him….but HE is in control and does all things well….therefore we all say AMEN TO HIS PERFECT WILL.”

The name “Dr. George Irish,” has always been and immediately the following day was mentioned by everyone who may even just remember having heard of him for somewhere before.

As reported, Premier Donaldson Romeo on Wednesday led Montserrat in “mourning the death of the national icon, Dr. George Irish, who died at the age of 76 years late Tuesday.”

“I, like most Montserratians, am saddened at the passing of the Right Honourable, Dr. James Alfred George Irish, OE, son of the soil and National Icon. Whether known to some as educator, social activist, trade unionist, politician, musician, artist, singer, orator, or Man of God, in each and every aspect he has left an indelible mark on us individually and collectively,” Romeo said, speaking as the majority would.

“As we mourn his loss may we hold on to and be comforted by our God, who Dr Irish himself chose to love, serve and represent as a Pastor and Man of God,” he added.

Beginning to recall his memory

In brief, as at some time soon, a full memorial of the icon will be presented, Irish was the first recipient of the Ph.D. degree in Spanish from the University of the West Indies (UWI).

He also taught at the university as well as at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in the Dominican Republic, and in the United States at the City University of New York (CUNY) where he served as Professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies.

In a poem, Sir Howard Fergus, who co-wrote the Montserrat National Anthem with Irish, said “in this sickly season when the smell of death pervades the atmosphere, the passing of Professor Irish creates a sad and gaping hole deeper than six feet”. (Presented in this issue)

“George has left us and has left much. At a time when “icon” is liberally distributed as klim in our impoverished childhood, it seems beggarly to so endow him, I dub him a Montserrat avatar which carries spiritual overtones, in honour of his enormous gifting which he generously invested in his island home, attracting meagre appreciation; his legacy is wide and long,” Sir Howard, who served as acting Governor of this British Overseas Territory, wrote in a poem. (See poem in this issue)

Irish was also the founder of the Montserrat Allied Workers’ Union and the Montserrat Cooperative Credit Union. He was also the author of more than 25 books. (See later)

Shirley Spycalla
a celebrated soprano opera soloist, singer,  in a Social media comment wrote briefly:
 “Dr Irish was an impressive Music Director of the Emerald Community Singers back in the day.”

Montserratian Journalist Toni Frederick-Armstrong Remembers Dr. George Irish remembers in a memorial, “I am honoured to have known him…even as a child I think I always understood that he was a pretty ‘big deal.’” (See in this issue)

The local campus of the UWI also filed a tribute to the late Dr. JAGPI. (See citation here)

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Teenager commits suicide after mother takes away cell phone

Teenager commits suicide after mother takes away cell phone

by staff writer 

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 4, CMC – A 16-year-old girl is reported to have committed suicide after her mother took away her mobile phone after finding out that she had been posting revealing photographs on social media, the Trinidad Express newspaper reported Monday.

It said that the incident occurred on Saturday when the teenager drank a poisonous statement at her home in Wallerfield in East Trinidad.

The paper reported that a container with “a green liquid” was found in the bedroom.

The mother told police that she had taken away her daughter’s cellphone after relatives discovered she had been posting revealing photographs on social media.

The child was rushed to the Arima Health Facility, where she was pronounced dead

 

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Police offer reward to capture escaped prisoner

Police offer reward to capture escaped prisoner

bySTAFF WRITER

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Jan. 17, CMC – The police have offered a reward of EC$5,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) to anyone who can provide information that will lead to the recapturing a man who escaped last week.

The police report that Hayden Phillip was discovered missing from the prison last Thursday and since then they have been searching for the convict who was serving time for robbery and was awaiting trial for a sexually related offence.

During a press conference here Thursday,

Assistant Superintendent of Prison Finbar Charles said that the financial reward is aimed at encouraging persons who know about his whereabouts to come forward so that law enforcement can return him to prison.

“We need the public to assist us in having him recaptured,” said Charles who gave the assurance that whatever tips provided to the police and or the prison will be investigated.

On Wednesday, Inspector Desmond Richard promised that Phillip will be recaptured although he has been evading Police for the last seven days.

According to  Richards, be believes there are persons   assisting Phillips and promised that once investigations can be confirmed and clarify certain information, persons will fully be prosecuted in accordance with the law.

The penalty to harbour, conceal, or aid in the concealment of any person who has committed a crime, ranges between a minimum of six months and five years in prison.

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CARICOM Secretary General says youth crime and violence demands a regional solution

CARICOM Secretary General says youth crime and violence demands a regional solution


by staff writer

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jan 15, CMC – A two-day conference aimed at examining and redefining violence prevention solutions as it relates to youth violence and prevention in the Caribbean began here on Tuesday with the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Irwin LaRocque, saying it is a regional problem that demands a regional solution.

LaRocque told the conference that has brought together leaders from youth movements, governments, civil society, development organizations and academia that crime and security is an issue that is having an impact on all the 15-members of the regional integration grouping.

CARICOM Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque

“It is a regional problem that demands a regional solution.  It not only requires the full co-operation of all our countries but also all the stakeholders within the member states.  The multi-state, multi-sectoral response to this challenge is vital for us to succeed in defeating it,” LaRocque told the opening ceremony.

He said a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2012 Caribbean Human Development Report on Citizen Security, noted that crime and violence impose high social, economic and cultural costs.

Crime and violence are development issues and the report recommended that a model of security for the region should be based on a human development approach with citizen security being paramount, he added.

The two day conference, which is being hosted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, UNICEF, the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat, the St. Lucia-based Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Commission, and the Caribbean Learning for Youth Networking and Change Sessions (LYNCS) Network., is intended to design transformational youth-centered action to combat crime and violence and address constraints that youth activists face in improving safety outcomes in their communities.

LaRocque told the conference that the youths are the demographic that is most affected by crime and violence and that some of the main findings of recent studies are that the majority of victims, as well as perpetrators of crimes recorded by the police, are young males 18 to 35 years old.

He quoted the UNDP report as indicating that the Caribbean has some of the highest figures of youth convicted of crime with at least 80 per cent of prosecuted crimes being committed by young people between the ages 19 to 29 years old.

“There are a number of socio-economic determinants of crime, not least of which is the high youth unemployment rate in the region of 25 per cent in 2017. That is three times the adult average and highest among young women ages 18 to 30 at 33 per cent,” he said, adding that to combat this scourge, Caribbean leaders approved the CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy in 2013, which incorporates the CARICOM Social Development and Crime Prevention Action Plan.

LaRocque said that the plan hinges on a multi-pronged approach, including crime prevention, justice reform, prison and corrections reform, capacity development within law enforcement and border security, and intelligence-led law enforcement.

He said that within the realm of crime prevention, it has been recognised that there is a need to work closely with communities, to address citizens’ perception of, and support for, the security and law enforcement sector.

This involves the development of close collaboration between and among ministries responsible for national security and their counterparts in related sector.

LaRocque said that the Crime Prevention Action Plan and the CARICOM Youth Development Action Plan (CYDAP) are two of the main policy frameworks which guide the design and implementation of policy and programmes in member states to address crime and violence from a prevention perspective and through addressing the underlying social factors.

He said they also seek to create an enabling environment for adolescent and youth well-being, empowerment and participation in national and regional development.

But LaRocque told the delegates that notwithstanding the value of the projects and programmes that are put in place to deal with crime and violence in the region, he is of the firm view, “the core of this battle must be fought in the home.

“Families have a vital role to play in turning the tide of this struggle.  The universal values of love, hard work, honesty, character building, belief in self and self-respect are key weapons.

“The first intervention must be in the home.  It is there that our youths are first socialised. It is there that we must tackle the concept of toxic masculinity which comes out of a false notion of what it takes to be a man,” he said, adding ‘we must demonstrate that gangs, crime and violence are not the answer to a path of success and self-actualization”.

He said conferences such as this one provide an opportunity for young people to be fully involved in providing solutions to problems that affect them.

“The engagement of youth at all levels of the decision-making process is critical for the successful outcome of all these interventions.  It is not only your future that is at stake but your present circumstances.  You must be equal partners in this struggle as your theme, “Youth as Partners and Innovators” suggests,” he added.

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Man jailed for killing son over 300 dollars

Man jailed for killing son over 300 dollars

by staff writer

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jan 9, CMC – A High Court judge has sentenced a 49-year-old man to 12 years in jail after he was found guilty of killing his son who had given his mother GUY$300 (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) to end a heated row in the home.

Justice Navindra Singh, sitting in the Demerara High Court, imposed the sentence on Amarnauth Chand, who on September 29, 2016 was involved in a heated argument with his wife over GUY$300.

The Court heard that the son, Mahesh Chand, 24, gave his mother the money in an effort to stop the argument.

Mahesh’s action is said to have angered the accused, who concluded that his son was ‘siding with his mother’. The father armed himself with a cutlass and inflicted a stab wound to the chest of his son, who was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Chand pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter and the judge noted that he had use a base of 25 years, but deducted eight years for the guilty plea and not wasting the court’s time and three years for his genuine display of remorse.

Justice Singh told Chand that he should participate in anger management courses that may be available in prison, so that he would become a better person.

A tearful Chand told the court that he regretted the incident and begged for mercy and that he was aware that his family was hurt by his actions. He said during his incarceration awaiting trial he had turned his life around and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

Defence attorney Keoma Griffith told the court that his client, a father of four other children had acted in a spontaneous manner and urged the judge to consider the mitigating factors.

But in response, State Prosecutor Abigail Gibbs said that while the accused had shown genuine remorse the State had no problem with showing mercy but, at the same time, a strong message needed to be sent, since his behaviour was not acceptable and a life was lost.

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Legal witnesses  testify in parliamentary disqualification trial of opposition leader

Legal witnesses testify in parliamentary disqualification trial of opposition leader

by STAFF WRITER

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Jan. 10, CMC – The case brought against the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Denzil Douglas, continued in court Thursday with three expert witnesses on Dominican law making presentations before  Justice Trevor Ward QC to help him determine whether Douglas, through his use of a diplomatic passport issued by the Commonwealth of Dominica, is under allegiance to a foreign power.

The expert witnesses provided by the Government were  Reginald Armour and Justin Simon, former Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda. 

Dr. Denzil Douglas

Both men, who are are Dominican   attempted to show that   Douglas  demonstrated his allegiance to the Commonwealth of Dominica when he travelled on his Dominican diplomatic passport.

The lone expert provided by the defendant was Attorney-at-Law,   Gerald Burton, also a Dominican.

Douglas, in an affidavit filed in the High Court Registry on February 21, 2018, admitted to holding a diplomatic passport of the Commonwealth of Dominica, which he has used to travel. 

He also admitted to filling out and signing an application form for the diplomatic passport he holds, which is valid until July 29, 2020.

The opposition leader has argued that he has not sworn an allegiance, taken an oath of allegiance, nor become a citizen of Dominica.

However, the Attorney General’s Chamber is arguing that  Douglas is in violation of Section 28 of the Constitution after filling out an application form for a passport of another country, being issued with said passport and using that passport to travel, which are positive acts that constitute adherence, allegiance and obedience to a foreign power.

The St. Kitts-Nevis government, through the Attorney General, Vincent Byron, is seeking a declaration from the High Court that, since the election to the National Assembly on February 16, 2015, Douglas became disqualified from being elected as a member of the National Assembly and was accordingly required to vacate his seat in the National Assembly by reason of his becoming a person who, by virtue of his own act, is in accordance with the law of Dominica, under an acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state, namely, Dominica.

Additionally, the government is also seeking a declaration that Douglas has vacated his seat in the National Assembly; an injunction restraining him from taking his seat in the National Assembly and from performing his functions as a member as well as costs, and other relief as the court may deem just and expedient.

Meanwhile,  Anthony Astaphan, lead counsel for Douglas in the Dominica Diplomatic Passport case said  the legal matter   “is a simple one.” “This Diplomatic Passport was given to Dr. Douglas as a matter of professionalism and personal courtesy (by the Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit). He applied for it as required under the regulations. He did not declare a citizenship of Dominica at no time, even when he travelled on his regular passport or on the Diplomatic Passport. His nationality was always declared as that of St. Kitts and Nevis or a Kittitian,”  Astaphan told reporters.

Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris has described the matter of one of grave constitutional, political and parliamentary significance to the Commonwealth.

Both sides have until January 25 to submit written submissions based on evidence that was presented in court on Thursday, after which the lawyers will have until February 4 to respond, if necessary.

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Opposition Leader confirms senator no longer a legislator

Opposition Leader confirms senator no longer a legislator

by staff writer

ROSEAU, Dominica, Jan 9, CMC – Opposition Leader Lennox Linton Wednesday confirmed that an opposition legislator, Dr. Thompson Fontaine, was no longer a parliamentarian after Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced on Tuesday night that he had missed three consecutive meetings of the legislative chamber.

“Mr. Thomson Fontaine, as we speak, is no longer a senator in Dominica because he missed three consecutive sittings without the expressed authority of the Speaker,” Skerrit told television viewers.

Opposition Leader Lennox Linton

Linton, speaking on a private radio station here, acknowledged that Fontaine, an economist who is reported to be employed as the Senior Economic and International Policy Adviser on the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, overseeing implementation of Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, had written to the Speaker Alix Boyd-Knights about his unavailability to attend Parliament.

“Thompson Fontaine is under pressure because the Speaker will not accept his notification or his word to the Speaker that he can’t attend parliament. She decides what she wants and since is sole judge of that under the rules of the parliament…so she decides what she accepts and what she doesn’t accept.

“But Thompson had already decided that it would be better for him to move on and he was going to resign the Senate position anyway, “said Linton who had named him as a senator following the 2014 general elections.

He said the decision by the economist “had nothing to do with leadership or this sort” and that Prime Minister Skerrit “is trying to make a deal about it” even as he, Skerrit has not informed the nation about the position regarding a parliamentary secretary Ivor Stephenson, who was appointed in April last year and is yet to make an appearance in Parliament.

“When you put the Thompson Fontaine situation side by side with what has happened with Ivor Stephenson and how he as prime minister has managed it…with an elected member incapable of going to Parliament …and he is happy that through the machinations of the Speaker they have declared the Thompson Fontaine seat in the Senate vacant”.

Skerrit had told television viewers that Linton had shown poor leadership by allowing Fontaine to miss the three consecutive sitting of the parliament “to the point where the Speaker would write to the President informing the President that a senator has missed three sittings and therefore, he has vacated his seat in the “Parliament.

“I can tell the country that this would never happen to me as prime minister with an elected member of parliament, far more, for a senator,” he added.

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Prime Minister saddened by death of distinguished Caribbean attorney

Prime Minister saddened by death of distinguished Caribbean attorney

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Dec. 27, CMC – Prime Minister Gaston Browne has expressed the sorrow at the death of well known attorney Sir Fenton Ramsahoye who was made a Knight of the Order of the Nation here in 2006.

Sir Fenton Ramsahoye

“One of our distinguished Knights has fallen, and we in Antigua and Barbuda, join his family, friends and admirers throughout the Caribbean in mourning his passing.”

Browne recalled the distinguished legal career of Sir Fenton, who was born in Guyana and served as that country’s Attorney-General in the colonial period before serving as Professor at the Hugh Wooding Law school, and representing Caribbean governments, private individuals and companies before the Privy Council and the Caribbean Court of Justice.

“Sir Fenton will be remembered with respect and admiration by a generation of Caribbean attorneys who benefitted from his knowledge and willingness to share it”.

“He was an erudite scholar of the law and defended his clients with unfailing commitment”, the Prime Minister declared.

Sir Fenton  who was 89, died early Thursday, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados.

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CARICOM RBM life-cycle approach

CARICOM: Manage by Results! (To cure “implementation deficit disorder”)

TMR December 2018

CARICOM[1] and its fifteen member states (including Montserrat) have long struggled with “implementation deficit disorder.” Such a region-wide problem has to be tackled on a regional basis, and CARICOM has set out to do just that.

Accordingly, the fifteen member Caribbean regional body has undertaken a CDB-funded US$ 600,000 project with Baastel,[2] a sustainable development oriented consultancy firm, in order to improve delivery of strategic results. Mr Evan Green (Baastel’s vice-president of Results Based Management [RBM] and disaster risk management), is therefore helping the region to create a “CARICOM Gender Sensitive Results-Based Management System.”

This is why a four-member high level CARICOM delegation recently visited Montserrat as part of a regional series [3] of meetings and seminars on RBM.[4] The delegation was led by Ambassador Dr Manorma Soeknandan, CARICOM’s Deputy Secretary General. The delegation was hosted through the Office of the Premier and held consultations with Government, Legislators, the Senior Civil Service and also with representatives of Civil Society on Monday, November 26th 2018. TMR was invited, and we now share our observations.

Premier Romeo welcomes the CARICOM RBM delegation headed by Amb. Soeknandan, as HE Governor Pearce looks on [Cr. CARICOM]

In his remarks, His Excellency Governor Pearce emphasised the need to drastically simplify delay-prone bureaucratic procedures and to break the cycle of chained consultancies on consultancies on consultancies. For example, “if you want to go on leave you fill in a form and then it has to go round about 10 people. By the time it eventually comes back to you to confirm you can go on leave you’re near retirement.” Likewise, “there are consultancy reports analyzing previous consultancies going back decades; and there’s a consultancy on every conceivable thing you can think of.” (The Governor’s remarks were picked up in news reports and have sparked a wider public discussion, as TMR has reported.[5])

Premier Romeo then emphasised the ongoing, much needed shift to a more results-based expedited implementation of priority projects and programmes that consults with and is accountable to stakeholders. Including, voters.

Ambassador Dr Soeknandan gave introductory remarks on the behalf of CARICOM.  She pointed to the “implementation deficit disorder” and noted that CARICOM is not a third party in the region, we are Caricom. In July 2014 CARICOM adopted a five-year strategic plan aimed at economic growth, reducing environmental vulnerability, integration, better communication and equity for all.   Resource Based Management (RBM) seeks to shift focus and assessments from activities (such as training) towards achieving strategic results. RBM is based on accountability for results, including to our taxpayers.

Mr. Craig Beresford, Director of CARICOM’s Strategic Management Unit,  summarised the CARICOM Strategic Plan 2015 – 19.[6] He noted that many stakeholders across the region do not feel the presence and benefits of CARICOM, pointing to communication/ awareness and effectiveness issues. Effects of the 2008 – 9 global economic crisis linger across the region. Environmental vulnerability can be seen from how the 2017 hurricane wiped out a year’s GDP for Dominica. Regional decision-making is weak and slow, e.g. a regional rights agreement took fourteen years to complete.  The region is not short on plans, implementation is a key gap. Going forward a logical framework approach and a scorecard system will increase accountability.

Consultant Mr. Evan Green then made a slide presentation on Results Based Management. RBM moves beyond the pattern of twenty years ago where the focus was on what was done rather than what was achieved. At that time, the number one progress indicator for many projects was “number of people trained,” and the number two indicator was “number of workshops held.” Instead, RBM emphasises accountability over delivering strategic results and benefits to stakeholders.

RBM has thus become the preferred approach of International Development Partners (aka donor agencies), many states and Non-Government Organisations. 

Considered from a life cycle point of view, in RBM there is an outer loop of planning, monitoring and evaluation. (This loop is common to all management.) Stakeholder participation is at the pivot. The RMB cycle has five phases:

1] Vision-setting

2] Defining the results map and RBM framework

3] Planning for monitoring and evaluation

4] Implementation with monitoring

5] Managing that uses evaluation

Results-based Management (RBM) also incorporates Project Cycle Management [7] and Management of Programmes of Action as components. It also makes use of logical framework [8] (“log frame”) tools and scorecards that track achievement of results. CARICOM is emphasising gender concerns in all of this process.

The “log frame” project and programme planning approaches focus on inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and long-term impacts on the economy, our society and our natural environment. There is also an emphasis on using open source information technology tools and on common standards.

CARICOM’s top-level priorities are:

1] Economic: sustainable, resilient growth

2] Social: improved quality of life for all

3] Environmental: reduced vulnerability

4] Technology: innovative, ICT-enabled economies and society

5] CARICOM Identity/Community: an integrated community with equity for all

6] Governance: strengthening community governance

7] Co-ordinated International Relations: CARICOM is favourably positioned in the global community.

In order to successfully implement RBM and achieve these results, capacity has to be built both in CARICOM and in member countries. Including, here in Montserrat.

After the presentations, the session was opened up for a question and discussion period, as part of the needed stakeholder participation. Much of that discussion highlighted a communication deficit, so that people do not “feel” CARICOM’s presence and impacts.  Indeed, some people who work with or use services of CARICOM agencies do not recognise that these bodies are CARICOM at work – “CARICOM” lacks brand recognition. Another concern was the tendency of international development partners to specifically exclude Overseas Territories such as Montserrat from funding on grounds that they should look to the UK or the like; though there are notable exceptions such as a recent fisheries project. Montserratian Officials pointed out that it is then a considerable challenge to negotiate line by line for replacement funding.

Clearly, Results Based Management is a major CARICOM thrust. One, that calls us to work together to address our region’s implementation deficit disorder.

[1]     See: https://caricom.org/membership

[2]     See: http://baastel.com/

[3]     See Channel 5 Belize video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jffvweko7jM

[4]     See UN Handbook: https://www.un.cv/files/UNDG%20RBM%20Handbook.pdf

[5]     See TMR, Dec 14 2018, p. 1: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/development-stifled-and-public-service/

[6]     See https://www.caricom.org/STRATEGIC%20PLAN%202016_opt.pdf

[7]     See https://idscs.org.mk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/WEB-Handbook-for-EU-Project-Design-and-Project-Cycle-Management-1.pdf, also: https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/methodology-aid-delivery-methods-project-cycle-management-200403_en_2.pdf

[8]     See http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/783001468134383368/pdf/31240b0LFhandbook.pdf

Later in Belize: CARICOM Results Based Management Systems-Channel 5 Belize

 

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US-based group writes Speaker of Guyana Parliament

US-based group writes Speaker of Guyana Parliament

By Nelson A. King

NEW YORK, Dec 26, CMC – The US-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) has written to the Speaker of the Guyana Parliament, Dr. Bartland Scotland, requesting that he considers annulling last weekend’s vote of no confidence that brought down the in the David Grange coalition government.

In the letter, the CGID said it is relying on Article 153 (a) and (b) of the Guyana Constitution, that notes  “a member of the National Assembly elected on a list shall cease to be a member of the Assembly if: (a) “He or she declares in writing to the Speaker or to the Representative of the list from which his or her name was extracted that he or she will not support the list from which his or her name was extracted;” and (b) “He or she declares in writing to the Speaker or to the Representative of the list from which his or her name was extracted, his or her support for another list.”

Guyana Parliament Building (File Photo)

Last Friday, government backbencher Charandass Persaud voted with the opposition Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) to win the no-confidence motion in the 65-seat National Assembly after several hours of debate.

The Granger led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition had held a slender one-seat majority since the 2015 general elections.

In the December 24 letter, CGID said that “Persaud publicly withdrew his support for the APNU+AFC coalition List from which he was extracted and declared his support for the PPP/C List.

“Consequently, in accordance with Article 153 (a) and (b) of the Guyana Constitution, it is the position of CGID, having consulted with several attorneys in Guyana and internationally, that Mr. Charrandass Persaud’s vote for the no confidence motion against the government on December 21 is null, void and of no legal effect, and should be vitiated,” CGID wrote.

“The institute, therefore, respectfully solicits your review and sanction of this matter of urgent national importance,” it added.

The CGID said that, prior to the Constitution Amendment Act of 2007, Article 156.3, an original provision of the Constitution, stated that “A member of the national Assembly elected on a list shall be disqualified from being a member of the Assembly, if he or she in the prescribed manner, declares that he or she will not support the list from which his or her name was extracted or, declares that he or she abstain from supporting that list or, declares his or her support for another list.”

CGID said this original provision, Article 156.3, was repealed and replaced with the extant provisions of Article 153 by the Constitution Amendment Act of 2007.

“The amendment, notwithstanding the fundamental intent of the framers of the Constitution, remains applicable and paramount to the interpretation of the extant provisions of Article 153,” CGID wrote, adding that the Constitution “comprises binding rules which govern the organization, powers and administration of government and society.

“The intent of the framers, thereof, is the jurisprudential standard for constitutional interpretation,” it added.

CGID said the framers of the Guyana Constitution intended, in Article 153 (a) and (b), that “a member of the Assembly, elected by the people and extracted from his party’s List, cannot act against, refuse to support nor vote against the List from which he or she was extracted, and neither can a member vote for, with or in support of another List, without first declaring such intent to the Speaker in writing.”

Consequently, the US based group said that Article 153 (a) and (b) of the Guyana Constitution “mandates that any member who, accordingly, makes such declaration against the List from which he or she is extracted or in support of another List, shall cease to be a member of the National Assembly.

“The commission of an act against the List from which a member was extracted, as well as an act in support of another List, for which a written declaration was deliberately and deceitfully withheld from the Speaker, likewise violate the provisions of Article 153 (a) and (b), and similarly disqualifies such a member immediately from the Assembly, since the intention of the Constitution is for the member to fully honor the content of Article 153 to the letter,” it said.

CGID said Article 153 clearly mandates that “before a member acts against the List from which he or she was extracted, or in support of another List, a declaration of that intent must be first submitted to the Speaker, the consequence of which, or the failure to so declare, require nullification of the act by the Speaker and disqualification of the member from the Assembly.

“Article 153, therefore, safeguards against the government side of the Assembly bringing itself down,” CGID said. “It follows, therefore, that a public withdrawal of support for the List from which a member was extracted and the public declaration of support for another List, with or without a declaration to the Speaker, automatically triggers or invokes Article 153 (a) and (b), and such member shall cease to be a member of the Assembly.

“Honourable, Speaker, on Friday, December, 21, 2018, Mr. Charrandass Persaud, then a member of the Assembly, who was extracted from the APNU+AFC coalition List, voted in favour of the no confidence motion that was tabled in the National Assembly by the parliamentary opposition, against the APNU+AFC coalition government of Guyana, enabling its passage,” added CGID in its letter to Scotland.

As a result of Friday’s no confidence vote, Guyana is preparing for general elections early next year.

Persaud, a lawyer, told reporters after the vote that his conscience had been “stifled for long,” adding that he had not been offered any money or position by the opposition to vote against the government.

Persaud, who had long criticized the PPP as “corrupt” and “out-of-touch”, among other things, said he will be tendering his resignation to Parliament and the Alliance for Change (AFC), a partner in the coalition government, and that he would not be returning to the House as a Member of Parliament for the AFC.

In the interim, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, a former president, said that he plans to meet with Granger on several issues. The meeting is scheduled for next month.

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