New York-based Int’l Center for Democracy Condemns ‘Assault on Guyana Democracy’

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This Guyana Chronicle photo shows an emotional PPP parliamentarian Priya Manickchand during the fracas in the National Assembly Monday. (Photo by Adrian Narine)

NEW YORK – The International Center for Democracy (ICD) has issued a statement condemning the events of Monday December 11 in the Guyana Perliament.
The ICD says the events constitute an attack on the sanctity of the Parliament and an attack on the democracy of Guyana.

The following is the full statement from the organization:

The International Center for Democracy condemns the actions of the Speaker of the Parliament of Guyana, who with the full complicity of the Government, brought in police to arrest a Member of Parliament. The ICD further condemns the physical abuse of other MPs, particularly female MPs, belonging to the Opposition political party.

The events of Monday December 11 constitute an attack on the sanctity of the Parliament and an attack on the democracy of Guyana. The police actions directed by the Speaker and the Government breached the fundamentally democratic and constitutional rights, privileges and immunities all MPs are legally entitled to.

The ICD further express our dismay and disapproval of the apparent conspiracy between the Speaker and the government to abort scrutiny of BUDGET 2018 in the Guyana Parliament. The use of force, infringing the laws governing the functions of Parliament, was used in an apparent attempt to abort the Budget scrutiny. This action not only attacked the freedom of MPs, but is also an effort to silence the voice of the people.

We stand in solidarity with all those who respect the sanctity of the Parliament and believe that government’s transparency and accountability are non-negotiable pre-requisites for a genuine democratic state. BUDGET scrutiny is not an option for any government, it is an imperative, a binding obligation. The ICD, therefore, strongly rejects the Government of Guyana’s efforts to restrict and subvert budget scrutiny.

The ICD previously registered our grave concerns regarding undemocratic actions pursued and taken by the President and Government. The unilateral appointment of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was the most recent occasion that aroused our concerns. Now the events in the Parliament of Guyana on Monday (December 11) and Tuesday (December 12) further intensify our concerns whether the country is returning to an undemocratic state.

The ICD strongly register our protest regarding the efforts of the Speaker of the House to silence Members of Parliament (MPs) and the media. This is unacceptable and a gross violation of the Democratic rights of the Citizens of Guyana to be afforded freedom of information. Removal of the Media from the Parliament buildings, preventing them from doing their work and the further efforts to stop the flow of information by shutting down Wi-Fi, internet services and electricity in the Parliament Chambers all together are norms exercised only in undemocratic countries. The Speaker of the House recourse to summoned police to arrest an MP while doing his job and asking questions in an effort to scrutinize BUDGET 2018, is in our view undemocratic.

The ICD fully recognize that we must not under-value the importance of Parliament. The role of the Speaker has been one of being a fair adjudicator, ensuring that Parliament accomplishes its various roles of effective legislation and scrutiny of the government’s policies and conduct. While we recognize that even more are required for Guyana’s Parliament to meet the optimal standards of a democratic parliament, we are concerned that recent events in Parliament and actions by the Speaker of the House are perceived as undemocratic. The ICD has been contacted by many concerned Guyanese that they perceive the Speaker of the House as an enforcer of the government to muzzle the Parliament and to prevent it from scrutinizing policies and conduct. The perception of the government and the Speaker in the Parliament are simply too alarming for us to ignore.

The ICD is not advocating that any MP disrespect the Speaker. But an MP should have a right to reject being muzzled and in those instances the Speaker must respond fairly and seek to resolve the tension by peaceful actions. The Parliament of Guyana has seen many fracas before. Never has a Speaker brought in police to arrest anyone and to physically abuse anyone. In previous Parliaments in Guyana, Speakers have suspended the sitting and even walked out without suspending the sitting. What ensued is that the Speaker would convene meetings with the Leaders on the Government and Opposition sides and work out a way forward.

The International Center for Democracy is calling on all international bodies to demand that the Speaker of the House be sanctioned and be relieved of his position for his blatant abuse of his position, his biased ruling in favor of government parliamentarians.
The International Center for Democracy protests President Granger’s failure to represent the citizens of Guyana and to ensure that the constitutional rights of MPs and the people are protected. We demand that the President of Guyana appoints a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the undemocratic events of Monday and Tuesday (December 11 and 12).

The ICD calls upon the United Nations, CARICOM, EU and ABC countries to condemn the assault on Guyana’s Parliament and the MPs. Failure to intervene may result in fracturing the already tenuous state of democracy in Guyana. We further call on President Granger, Speaker of the House and Leader of the Opposition and all political parties to meet and make a serious attempt to bring normalcy and decorum back to the Guyana Parliament.

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