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Attorney-General Basil Williams and organisers of the meeting at the head table

…AG tells Guyanese in Canada as gov’t prepares to return to Parliament
…says move also in keeping with CCJ directive

ATTORNEY-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams told Guyanese in Toronto over the weekend that the government will be returning to Parliament in October as directed by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to seek an extension of the period to hold elections, and once again encouraged the Opposition to do the same, in compliance with the Constitution.

 

Attorney-General Williams was on a private visit to Toronto for his son’s admission to the Bar in Ontario, and took the opportunity to update Guyanese on recent developments in Guyana at a meeting in Scarborough, and via a live Radio Talk Show Programme on WTOR 770 AM Radio with popular host Richard Azeez Shuban.

 

Attorney-General Basil Williams and some of the Guyanese in Canada at the meeting 

The Attorney-General addressed a wide range of searching questions from those at the meeting and Radio Host Shuban. The issues raised included the recently announced elections date by President David Granger; oil-and-gas spill contingency plans; challenges of keeping a ‘coalition government’ together; the apparent failure to prosecute present and former corrupt officials; investigations into activities that occurred during a time referred to as ‘the troubles’, during which hundreds were murdered; efforts by the government to promote social cohesion to eradicate ethnical imbalance in the society; and investments in education, infrastructure and the hinterland communities.

“The President has announced that national and regional elections will be held on March 2, 2020, with or without the support of the Opposition in Parliament,” Attorney-General Williams reiterated. He explained that given the three months had passed since the no- confidence vote was taken because of court action, the government was required to seek an extension of the March 21 elections deadline, as stipulated by the Constitution with a two-thirds majority in parliament. The Caribbean Court of Justice, in its consequential orders, had also directed that the parties adhere to the constitutional requirements as they relate to the holding of elections following a no-confidence vote.

He said that in this regard, the government is operating within the Constitution and the directive of the CCJ by going back to Parliament on October 10 to seek that extension. “The Opposition in Parliament will have to support that extension to achieve the two-thirds majority, and if we don’t get it, President Granger will then proclaim March 2 as the date for elections and dissolve parliament under the Doctrine of Necessity,” Minister Williams explained. Necessity is a common-law doctrine which can be used in Commonwealth countries to justify action in these circumstances.

“The President has gone ahead and announced March 2 as the elections date, and if the Opposition does not show up, he will proceed to do what he has to do,’ Minister Williams said. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has repeatedly said the Opposition will not return to Parliament to facilitate an extension of the March 21 deadline.

OIL AND GAS
In addressing points of interest among Guyanese in Toronto, Attorney-General Williams assured his audience that the ‘Coalition Government’ is developing an oil- spill contingency plan, and the Department of Energy (DoE) is doing a lot of work to put the necessary policies and programmes in place to successfully manage the oil-and-gas sector. On the prosecution of corrupt officials, the Attorney-General admitted that they are facing challenges in gathering evidence to successfully prosecute these cases. “In many of these cases, persons within the system have destroyed evidence,” he said, adding: “We are, however, not allowing this to defeat our efforts to bring these people to justice. In these circumstances, it takes time, and that is why we are asking for another mandate to deliver on these promises and other initiatives to provide a good life for all Guyanese.”

‘THE TROUBLES’
He promised that the ‘Coalition Government’ will be investigating ‘The Troubles’, a period during which many young people lost their lives, but reminded his audience that there is a huge amount of work to be done after 23 years of lawless government under the PPP, and that th present admi8nistration has only been in government for four years. “We have achieved a great deal in four short years,” the Attorney-General pointed out. 

 

A section of the audience at the meeting in Scarborough

“We have invested over $170B in education, and huge amounts in infrastructure, and to develop the hinterland and Indigenous communities,” he said. “And we are not discriminating in where we make these investments. For instance, in Wakenaam and Leguan Islands in Essequibo, areas that traditionally vote for the Opposition, we have been building new roads. These areas have been neglected for 23 years.”

The Attorney-General, in response to a question on the radio show about efforts by the ‘Coalition Government’ to break the ethnic divide in Guyana, said that the PNCR, the largest partner in the six-party coalition has always encouraged diversity in its ranks. He reminded the host that there was even a time when former president, Desmond Hoyte was referred to as “Desmond Persaud”, due entirely to his efforts at encouraging ethnic diversity in the party.

“We have done a lot of work in four short years to ensure we have a safe society and a good life for Guyanese, despite huge challenges,” he said. “People on the ground are already seeing the results of our efforts.” Calls to the radio station in response to the interview pointed to the positive developments in communities in Berbice and Bartica under the ‘Coalition Government’. One caller said that she is from Bartica, and that that community has been transformed for the better under the ‘Coalition Government’.

Attorney-General Williams said that because of the work they have done, he is confident the ‘Coalition Government’ will be returned to power, and they will be able to continue the work to provide a just, fair and wealthy society for all.