Elections timeline remain in limbo in oil-rich Guyana

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Speaker of the National Assembly in Guyana, Dr Barton Scotland

Speaker of the National Assembly in Guyana, Dr Barton Scotland has chosen not to reverse his position on the vote of no-confidence which was carried on December 21, 2018, effectively bringing the life of the APNU+AFC coalition government to an end, heralding fresh elections in 90 days, according to the country’s constitution.

The Guyana Government which enjoyed a one-seat majority was defeated in a vote of no-confidence when a Member of Parliament (MP), Charrandas Persaud switched sides and voted in favour of the motion filed by Opposition Leader and former President, Bharrat Jagdeo.

Dr Scotland said Guyana’s Attorney General and others invited him to reverse his decision.

“It is perhaps useful honourable members, to let you know that the authority with which the speaker is clothed, enables him to revisit any ruling which he has rendered,” he stated.

He said that if in doing so he forms the opinion that the ruling does not stand, he may reverse it, with his only limitation being that he must act in keeping with the Constitution at all times.

“The Speaker’s very wide authority to reverse his ruling is not however one which he holds himself able to exercise without strong and compelling grounds, simply choosing one position in place of an earlier one would not of course meet that requirement.”

“…The Speaker on this occasion, and without more, declines the invitation to act in reversal. Full, final and complete settlement of these issues by a court of competent jurisdiction will place beyond doubt any question which may exist and serve to give guidance to the Speaker and the National Assembly for the future.”

The coalition government had already signaled its intent to take the matter to court should the Speaker decline to reverse the decision. Should this occur, elections would more than likely not be held in 90-days since this would be dependent on the court’s final decision on the matter.

MP Persaud belonged to the Alliance For Change (AFC) – the smaller faction of the coalition Government.

The passage of the motion in the 65-seat National Assembly was initially accepted by the government, having passed by a 33-32 margin in favour of the opposition after a coalition Member of Parliament voted in support of the motion. However, the government subsequently indicated that based on its interpretation of the Constitution, 34 votes would have been needed to pass the motion, and not 33, although 33 has been accepted in the Guyanese Parliament as a majority over the years.

Also, it is being contended that Persaud is not a qualified elected member of the National Assembly and is a citizen of a foreign country who has taken active steps to exercise that status.

Head of Guyana’s Department of Energy (DoE) Dr Mark Bynoe told OilNOW in December that his agency will continue to carry out its mandate in preparing the country for first oil in 2020 despite the passage of the no-confidence motion.

“The Department will continue to discharge its responsibilities as mandated,” Dr Bynoe said when asked what may become of the policy and legislative initiatives in the pipeline such as the Natural Resources Fund, Petroleum Commission Bill, Local Content policy, oil spill contingency plan, among others.

US oil major ExxonMobil has to date discovered more than 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil offshore the South American country.