Gov’t falls after APNU+AFC MP Charrandass Persaud votes yes to no confidence motion

Stabroek News – 21 December 2018 –  A high-stakes gambit by the PPP/C paid off tonight when APNU+AFC MP Charrandass Persaud voted for the opposition motion of no-confidence meaning that fresh general elections will have to be held in three months.

Persaud, an attorney, who represents the AFC wing of the coalition, voted yes when it was his turn tonight, stunning the National Assembly and clearly taking the government benches by surprise.

His vote brought proceedings to an immediate halt as government MPs attempted to have him change his vote. Both APNU+AFC Chief Whip Amna Ally and MP Volda Lawrence who is the chairman of the PNCR rounded on him to no avail.      

Persaud, a Berbician,   proceeded to repeat at least four times that he was in favour of the motion when Speaker Dr Barton Scotland had the process restarted. The vote was then concluded and the no-confidence motion succeeded 33 to 32 meaning that the government had fallen.

The voting came at the end of nearly seven hours of gruelling debate on the PPP/C’s motion which had had the political class on tenterhooks.

The collapse of the government comes at a particularly precarious time with President David Granger being unwell and the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission also unwell.

Jagdeo’s motion of no-confidence was crafted on the heels of the November 12 local government elections where the PPP/C stormed to impressive wins.

The PPP/C lost the 2015 general elections by a mere 4,500 votes and will now fancy its chances at the new polls. It however has to decide who its presidential candidate will be.

With first oil set for 2020, the outcome will rock the entire country and particularly the investment community.

Tonight’s outcome will be a particularly bitter outcome for Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo who was one of the speakers on the motion tonight and who up to last night had boldly said that no APNU+AFC MP would vote for the PPP/C motion.

There is great irony to the no-confidence motion. Nagamootoo and the AFC had tabled one against the PPP/C in 2014 and to avoid losing it, the President Donald Ramotar prorogued and then dissolved Parliament leading to the 2015 elections which APNU+AFC won.

There would now be great uncertainty as whether the APNU+AFC coalition would survive this collapse.

Tonight’s development may also impel the formation of new groupings to occupy the third party space.

In September 2013, Persaud had a falling out with the AFC. He told Stabroek News then that he left the AFC because he was treated as second class and taken for granted. He later patched up with the AFC in time for the 2015 general elections and was named a member of Parliament.

PPP wins no confidence motion; AFC MP sides with opposition

Government back-bencher Charandass Persaud voted with the opposition Peoples  Progressive Party to win the no-confidence motion in the 65-seat National Assembly that was sponsored by the opposition, after several hours of debate.

Despite repeated urging by fellow parliamentarians to change his vote, Persaud declined.

Minister of Health Volda Lawrence also unsuccessfully asked for a brief suspension to allow for a resolution.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams sought to block Jagdeo from wrapping up the debate by citing a parliamentary rule that the motion be put. That motion was seconded by Ramjattan, but before Teixeira could object, House Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland said he would speak on the motion after Jagdeo.

Early on in the debate, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo signaled that even if his People’s Progressive Party lost the vote in the House, that party would win the next general elections.

Except for Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and Junior Minister Simona Broomes, government’s defence of its performance since May 2015 was lacklustre.

Ramjattan, early in his 40-minute contribution, candidly said the vote was down to numbers instead of talk.

“The defence of the no-confidence motion is when we vote here,” Ramjattan said as less than 200 mostly green-clad  pro-government supporters stood behind police barriers opposite Parliament Building.

Inside the House, several government parliamentarians were clothed in green and yellow, colors of the governing A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change.

He charged that the motion was more about Jagdeo- a former President, Opposition Leader, and now PPP General Secretary- on whom he called to give way to a successor. “The discussion here is to show the relevance of the ppp at this time and the mover of the motion. What you are doing here honourable member? You dont want to give a bright youngster a chance”, said Ramjattan.

Recalling that he had been expelled from the now opposition PPP because he had spoken out against corruption when he had been a member of that party, Ramjattan said the drug trade has been dented and Guyana’s international ranking in combatting trafficking in persons. “Corruption was always going to be their bugbear. I used to be in the belly of the beast and when you start talking, the Honourable member started the expulsion process”, he said.

Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira said the PPP was buoyed by clear popular vote victories in the 2016 and 2018 local government elections.

She accused the APNU+AFC administration of rejecting proposals from the opposition and ignoring its supporters. “One of the major complaints of your supporters is that you ignore them…This government has squandered the goodwill of the Guyanese people especially your supporters,” she said.

Opposition parliamentarians Anil Nandlall and Irfan Ali also pummelled government’s record in several areas such as a loss of 30,000 jobs; poor economic performance such as high government spending and a lack of private sector stimulus.

Junior Minister Broomes cited improvements in several interior lications such as Bartica, Port Kaituma, Mahdia and Mabaruma in addition to City areas such as Kitty. Broomes also highlighted improvement in the quality of housing being provided to ordinary Guyanese. “We are not moving into housing. We are moving you into communities,” she said. Instead of being a four-member family to be eligible for government housing, she said the coalition government has changed that to any single person 18 years or older.

Nandlall blamed government for failing to fulfill several promises, such as constitutional reform, outlined in its 2015 elections manifesto. The former Attorney General added that the coalition breached it’s own February 2015 political agreement between  the APNU and AFC on, among other things, the intended responsibilities for domestic affairs  chairing the cabinet and making certain constitutional bodies.

In his rebuttal, Prime Minister Nagamootoo refused to discuss his role,
“I would not be baited into discussing the role of the Prime Minister in this Parliament”, he said.

Saying there were no new arguments by the PPP as they had all been ventilatee in the 2019 budget debate.

Williams merely rehashed well-known allegations of state-sponsored death squads, and extra-judicial killings by police.  “There is no way the Guyaenese people will ever again give them a mandate to run the government”, he added.

Loud heckling across the floor heard the PPP’s Neend Kumar and APNU+AFC back-bencher referring to extra-judicial killings  Kumar shouted “Vincent Teekah, Fr Darke” who were killed in the 1980s when the People’s National Congress was in power.

Adams lashed back: “(Ronald) Waddel, Crum-Ewing,  and Sash Sawh “your own minister” who were all gunned down in the 2000s while the PPP was in office.

Nandlall predicted that his PPP would win the next general elections and government has done a poor job in defending its record.”We will go in 2019 or in 2019 and you will be beaten again. And why, because the people of Guyana have given you a fair chance,” he added.

Nandlall, a likely presidential candidate for the PPP, failed to use the Ethnic Relations Commission to conduct ethnic impact assessments, repeal legislation to enshrine independence of the Parliament, a largely non-functional Judicial Service Commission and failure reform and modernise the Deeds Registry. At that juncture, Attorney General Williams heckled “done, done” to indicate they had been completed. “They are calling their own manifesto a bogus manifesto”, he added.

Nandlall also assailed government for failing to fulfill its promise of 2,000 jobs in each of the 10 administrative regions, and the creation of a national youth policy