Guyana gov’t to appeal chief justice’s ruling on no-confidence motion

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Guyana gov’t to appeal chief justice’s ruling on no-confidence motion
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams

(GUYANA CHRONICLE) — Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams, says that the government will go all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), if needs be, to appeal the ruling of the High Court on Thursday that the no-confidence motion was validly passed.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire ruled that although former Member of Parliament (MP), Charrandas Persaud, was illegally sitting as an MP due to his dual citizenship, his vote for the no-confidence motion was valid and that 33 constitutes a majority of the House and that Cabinet must resign.

She also refused to grant a stay and conservatory order in her ruling. However, later on the corridors of the High Court, Williams said that George-Wiltshire’s ruling is just one conclusion within the three-part, hierarchical court structure. “I asked just now for a stay and for a conservatory order and the chief justice refused, so we’re going to appeal the matter and we’re going to renew that application there because we’re saying to her, the time is running and we wish to have this matter resolved before the time runs out,” Williams explained.

He said that the legal team now awaits the written judgement of the chief justice, which was promised to be delivered by Wednesday, February 6, 2019, so that they can prepare their case for the appeal process.

He maintained that the chief justice’s assessments failed to comprehend the difference between a simple majority and an absolute majority; the latter of which would have required the motion to secure 34 votes to be carried. The argument is based on the sitting members of the National Assembly being 65, an odd number; half of the House would be equal to 32.5 members.

Considering there can be no “half of a person”, the legal minds had contended that 33, therefore, represents half of the House, while 34 would then constitute an absolute majority. Williams reminded the media that former CCJ President, Sir Charles Byron, had similarly determined Guyana’s Assembly to have both a simple and absolute majority. The legal affairs minister stated further, that similar rulings on the simple and absolute majority in other jurisdictions have been pronounced upon by current President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders.

NO NEED TO WEEP

“We feel very strong about our case, and just as happened in the Cedric Richardson [third term] case, where we went on to appeal to the Court of Appeal and then from the Court of Appeal to the CCJ, where we won it and stopped [Opposition Leader] Jagdeo from saying that he could have a third term, we’re going all the way again,” the AG affirmed.

He added: “There’s no need to weep and gnash teeth. Our courts are a hierarchical system; our final court is the CCJ. So, like in the GECOM Chair [case] when Nandlall [and others] lost their appeal to the courts, [shows] it’s all part of the process. Nothing is over until the CCJ makes a final determination, so there’s nothing to panic about.”

REMAIN CALM

The attorney general also encouraged members of the public to remain calm during the legal period, and to go about business as usual with the assurance that the rule of law will prevail. “Be calm. Go about your business in the normal way; we are still the government. Remember, this is not a nice court case that is going through; this is a court case where we came to the court because of an act of treachery on the part of Charrandas Persaud in the Parliament. You must remember, we haven’t lost an election, we won the elections in 2015; we are in office about three and a half years and we have done a lot to roll back the atrocities of the 23 years, and we’re very confident that at the next elections we’ll do even better. So, do not despair; just let the law take its course and that’s what the law is doing,” Williams urged.

PLEASED WITH RULING

Coming out of the courtroom, Attorney-at-law and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament (MP), Anil Nandlall, said that he was very pleased with the ruling. He stated, however, that he does not believe that any court would grant a conservatory order or any order that would have effect of staying the ruling made by the chief justice.

“Before you can appeal a case, you have to have an appeal that has merit. The chief justice throughout her ruling, dismissed the submissions of the attorney general on the ground that they lacked merit,” Nandlall argued.

His sentiments were soon after discredited by Senior Counsel Neil Boston, who said, when questioned by the media: “I’ve heard Mr. Nandlall said to you that you only appeal when you have merit. That is so misleading. You’re appealing because you want to challenge the validity of the judge’s decision. We will seek to challenge in the Court of Appeal and when we get there, we will seek a conservatory order…we want a clean copy of our decision because the success of our conservatory order will depend on the quality of the grounds of appeal that we will file and what we are complaining about.”

DUAL CITIZENSHIP

The two also spoke on the pressing matter that MPs with dual citizenship will now have to abide by the country’s laws which speaks against such. “It would appear as though they may have to vacate their seats. We can’t speak for them and what they will do,” Boston said. “Legally they should not be there.”

Meanwhile, Nandlall said: “Because of this ruling, it means that the persons who are currently in that peculiar circumstance should not be sitting in the Parliament. In relation to elections, leaders of the lists now will have to ensure that persons who are placed on those lists comply with the constitutional provision as it relates to dual citizenship.”

This matter aside, Boston also took issue with George-Wiltshire’s ruling regarding the National Assembly Validity of Election Act. He told the media that based on the Act, she noted that a petition should have been brought within 28 days after the elections results were certified and published in the official gazette, to remove Charrandas Persaud from his position in light of his dual citizenship.

However, Boston contended: “Charrandas’ issue only arose some three years and six months after the elections results were published. So, it is our position that the National Assembly Validity of Election Act could not apply or did not make any provision to deal with a situation like that…I think the chief justice has taken a conservatory approach. We expect to see some judicial activism.” He also argued that Charrandas was obliged to communicate to the Speaker of the National Assembly or the list representative, his intention to shift his vote as the Constitution stipulates.

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