GEORGETOWN: On Monday, Britain warned Guyana that it risks being referred to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group after the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country suspended Parliament in November 2014.
“There is discussion about countries of concern in the Commonwealth every few months…Guyana is moving into a category of concern for the Commonwealth,” said British High Commissioner to Guyana Andrew Ayre during a news conference. “That is quite clear from discussions that take place in London.”
Guyana President Donald Ramotar prorogued Parliament on November 10, 2014 as the opposition parties – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) – moved to table a vote of no confidence in his administration.
The two opposition parties have a one seat majority in the 65-member Parliament.
Ramotar, who is likely to be the ruling People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) choice for presidential candidate, justified the decision to prorogue Parliament, saying he had earlier indicated a desire for the National Assembly, in its post-recess sittings, to deliberate and give priority to important matters relating to the development of the country.
Ramotar has also said he intends naming the date for fresh general elections on or before February 23, when Guyana observes Mashramani, the annual festival that celebrates Guyana becoming a Republic in 1970.
Guyana’s last general election was held on November 28, 2011.
Ayre said the decision to prorogue Parliament is a clear breach of the Guyana Constitution and the Commonwealth Charter.
“These things matter. The UK and other governments don’t sign the Commonwealth Charter…and then just put them to bed,” he said. “Guyana could be subject to a critical review because of breaches of the Commonwealth Charter.”
Ayre said the decision to prorogue Parliament could harm Guyana’s chances of receiving financial aid from Britain.
“Without a parliament there is no parliamentary oversight of development assistance or anything else,” he said. “Clearly the appetite to send money to a country that has no parliamentary oversight is much reduced.”
The diplomat said that he hoped Ramotar would deliver on his promise that general and regional elections would be held early this year because of the need to pass amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML-CFT) Act and a national budget.
“It means that no budget can be passed, so local investment will eventually grind to a halt,” said Ayre. “And external investor confidence takes a further knock as insecurity around Guyana’s future prospects decreases the appetite of investors to take the risk of investing whilst pushing up the costs of so doing. The UK Government therefore calls on the Government of Guyana to resume Parliament without further delay or lay out a timeline for the resumption of parliamentary democracy which helps to deliver shared commitments to democracy, security and prosperity for all.”