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The APNUAFC Coalition has poured cold water on a proposed no confidence motion against Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, knocking the government for appearing desperate after two of its ministers are facing similar motions.
The opposition earlier this week filed no confidence motions against Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony and Home Affairs Minister, Robeson. The opposition said the minister are incompetent and have mismanaged the sectors they have oversight of. In what appeared to be a kneejerk reaction, the government has signaled its intention to retaliate by filing no confidence motion against Harmon. However, Senior Counsel and Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Roysdale Forde said: “any attempt by the PPP to file a no confidence motion against the Leader of the Opposition will be baseless, frivolous, unconstitutional, vexatious and an abuse of the National Assembly. The Speaker will have no basis to allow such a motion and will have no choice but to discard it. The installed Prime Minister, Mark Phillips, in whose name it is reported the purported motion is to be filed may wish to allow himself the benefit of advice and guidance from credible constitutional experts and legal minds of which there appears to be a considerable and growing deficit within the ranks of the PPP.”
Forde made the comments citing an online news site report. “Should the report prove to be credible, it will have exposed the desperation of the beleaguered PPP to deflect attention away from the potent No Confidence Motions filed against Frank Anthony and Robeson Benn, installed ministers of Health and Home Affairs, who by their incompetence and inaction are placing the lives and security of our people at risk.”
Forde said the Opposition Members of Parliament have every confidence in the Leader of the Opposition. “The PPP is not only desperate but is also seeking to pervert the Constitution and inject into it that which it does not provide for. The Leader of the Opposition in accordance with Article 184 of the Constitution is elected by the non- governmental members of the National Assembly. Further, the Leader of the Opposition can only be removed by a majority of the non-governmental members of the National Assembly. By definition, the Leader of the Opposition does not have to enjoy the support of the Government members of the National Assembly. Unlike, the two incompetent installed ministers – Anthony and Benn – they are to enjoy the confidence of the National Assembly,” Forde concluded.
The opposition motions were filed with the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs and are in the names of Dr Karen Cummings, Shadow Health Minister and Geeta Chandan-Edmond, Shadow Home Affairs Minister.
In a statement following the filing of the motions on Tuesday Harmon said the Health Minister has not efficiently managed Guyana’s COVID-19 crisis and the well-being of citizens has not been made a priority. His motion of no-confidence against Dr. Anthony stated that the Minister of Health persistently demonstrated an inability to effectively undertake his duties in the health sector. He called for the National Assembly to express a lack of confidence in the Minister of Health and call for his immediate resignation.
In a subsequent statement, Harmon elaborated: “The management of the spread of COVID-19 has been woeful, there has been questionable procurement of vaccines and confirmed COVID cases and deaths are spiralling out of control. Dr. Anthony must bear direct responsibility for the health care crisis and disaster he has placed Guyana in, imperilling the lives and health and wellbeing of every citizen. The nation has lost confidence in Dr. Anthony and we formally take action on behalf of the people of Guyana today.”
Guyana’s current COVID-19 death toll stands at 478 with 2021 accounting for 314 of the deaths even as a sturdy vaccination campaign continues. Meanwhile, there have been over 20,000 positive cases recorded with Region Four accounting for almost 10,000 of these.
Regarding national security, Harmon’s motion against the Minister of Home Affairs stated that coupled with the health crisis, Guyana’s crime situation is deteriorating. In his motion, the Opposition Leader stated that Minister Benn has also persistently demonstrated his inability to effectively undertake his duties in the security sector and the House should therefore call for his immediate resignation.
Back in June, Benn had told the Committee of Supply that Guyana had experienced a 26 percent reduction in serious crimes, however, the Opposition doubted this and called on Benn to provide data to support his statement. In a subsequent statement regarding the motion, Harmon said: “Crime in all forms is on an astronomical increase in Guyana. Robberies of various kinds, break and enter, murders, vehicular homicides, violent assaults have enveloped the society. Citizens are living in mortal fear. The PPP has effectively already filed their own tacit No Confidence Motion in Benn having sidelined him in seeking to establish a parallel police force at the regional level. Today we file the formal, official No Confidence Motion against the failure that is Minister Robeson Benn.”
The body the Opposition Leader referenced is the new Regional Joint Support Team revealed during the Committee of Supply for which $249,967,523 has been allocated.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira had argued back in June that there is “nothing conspiratorial” about the new Regional Joint Support Team but the Opposition riddled her with questions about its make up, whether it is constitutional, and whether either the Guyana Police Force (GPF) or Guyana Defence Force (GDF) would usurp the power of the other.
About a month prior to the deliberations during the Committee of Supply, in April 2021, President Irfaan Ali had stated that there is only so much his Administration can do with its
“limited resources” to fight crime. His remarks came days after the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) highlighted to the media its “great concern” about the country’s crime situation. “Our country is developing at a massive rate and, as I recently told the private sector, we have limited resources in managing both external and domestic threats to our country’s security. We have recognised the fact that our law enforcement capacity is challenged by the sophisticated evolvement of criminal enterprise and my Government understands the responsibility of meeting the challenge to protect our people, their lives, and their property,” the President said.