Britain and Commonwealth may suspend Guyana for breaching rules

Bert Wilkinson | 1/15/2015, 4:37 p.m.
The 53-nation Commonwealth grouping of former British colonies this week threatened to sanction Guyana’s government for its suspension of the ...
Flag of Guyana

Special to the AmNews

The 53-nation Commonwealth grouping of former British colonies this week threatened to sanction Guyana’s government for its suspension of the country’s parliament and for its steadfast refusal to hold local government elections for more than 20 years, Britain’s representative to the country said this week.

Andrew Ayre told reporters that the Nov. 10 prorogation, or suspension, of parliament to stymie an opposition no-confidence vote against the governing Indo-led People’s Progressive Party is of serious concern to Britain and the other Commonwealth nations and might well result in sanctions against Guyana and a reduction of financial aid. Guyana, in addition to being a member of the Commonwealth, is the headquarters of the 15-nation Caribbean trade bloc.

“Guyana is moving into a category of concern for the Commonwealth,” Ayre said. “That is quite clear from discussions that take place in London. Given that the stated reason for the prorogation was to have constructive talks with the majority opposition, and given that those talks are not going to happen, the U.K. is increasingly concerned as to what the basis for the suspension of parliament is and how long it will last.”

President Donald Ramotar suspended sittings of the 65-member house Nov. 10, a full month after sessions should have resumed after the annual summer recess, saying it was clear the 33 opposition members would have approved a no-confidence motion to fire the government.

Ramotar has not as yet exercised the option of dissolving the house altogether and calling fresh elections that the Afro-dominated A Partnership for National Unity is likely to win amid widespread allegations of corruption and graft involving officials in the top echelons of government.

The suspension means that there has not been a single sitting since the summer, and the main opposition party has gone to court to block government from excess spending and binding the country with new mega-projects until fresh elections.

Ayre said that Guyana could be suspended from the Commonwealth, noting that “there is a clear danger of that, and the suspension of parliament and the fact that it has not been resumed since then is a clear breach of the Commonwealth charter and breach of Guyana’s constitution.”

However, National Security Minister and governing party General Secretary Clement Rohee said this week that authorities have no reason to give Britain or the Commonwealth the time of day because Guyana is a sovereign state.

“This country has gotten its independence from Britain since 1966,” Rohee said. “We don’t have to listen to what Britain says in respect to such pronouncements. This is an independent country. The British have their own arrangements there, too.”

“The U.K. 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,” Ayre said.