AG on “wild goose chase” with 34 majority argument – Nandlall
No-confidence resolution challenge
…“business as usual” must end once Cabinet resigns – Attorney tells Court
It was an action-packed afternoon at the High Court on Wednesday when the verbal submissions on the first of three no-confidence motion cases which were filed were heard by the acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC.
Christopher Ram’s Attorney Kamal Ramkarran outlined that “business as usual” in Government must end. In addition to Ramkarran, Attorney General Basil Williams, SC, and his predecessor, Anil Nandlall made submissions regarding the bid of applicant Ram for Cabinet to resign and have President David Granger call elections with all convenient speed following the passage of the December 21, 2018 no-confidence majority vote.
Ram joined the High Court challenge to have the court validate Charrandas Persaud’s “yes” vote and have national polls by March 2019. Ramkarran made it clear that Government’s power should only be limited to essential operations such as giving money to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), arguing that Articles 106 (6) and 106 (7) of the Constitution are clear and unambiguous and stressing that “business as usual must come to an end once Cabinet resigns”.
Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” Meanwhile, 106 (7) goes on to state that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
The Attorney told Justice George that there would not be chaos if Cabinet resigned, since the President would still remain the President under part 7 of Article 106 until the person elected in the elections assumed office. Moreover, Ramkarran, who is the current Head of the Guyana Bar Association, said too that no moves have been made to call elections in three months as the Constitution requires, observing that December 21 to January 23 was “certainly not” with all convenient speed.
The Attorney posited that the National Assembly has not agreed to extend the deadline for elections. He pointed out that one month, 26 days remained until the constitutionally mandated date. He told reporters that he was confident the decision would go his way premised on the arguments he has put forward.
“34 majority” argument
Next up was Attorney General Basil Williams, who held steadfast to his 34 majority argument, noting further that parts 6 and 7 of Article 106 must be examined together, agreeing with Ramkarran that the Constitution should not be read in a narrow way.
He submitted that Ram erred when he cited 106(6) only, stressing that governance must continue, even if Cabinet resigns. He said that a confidence vote was provided for in the first Constitution in 1966, but this was omitted in 1980. Thereafter, it was returned in amendments passed in 2003.
Williams said there could be chaos if Government Ministers were allowed to operate their ministries without direction. This contradicts the position of Attorney Ramkarran, who earlier reminded the Court that Permanent Secretaries were meant to run ministries. Nevertheless, Williams opined that it was wrong for Ram to move to compel Government to resign while the Court is hearing the matter and it was yet to conclude.
“Wild goose chase”
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s Attorney, Anil Nandlall argued that Government could still continue to function save for the Cabinet, a nucleus of the Executive Government, which should resign. He reiterated that Government would remain in office until a President is sworn in. He disputed the AG’s position that Government deflector Charrandas Persaud was a usurper as his previous voting on other matters was accepted since 2015. He reminded that it was the very Government that appointed the former Member of Parliament, saying that it would have been silent if Persaud voted with Government. Nandlall, in fact, said that the AG wanted the Judge to go on a “wild goose chase” owing to insufficient arguments, especially regarding the calculation of half plus one argument.
“Williams is asking Your Honour to go on a wild goose chase because he has nothing to go on; so he has to make it up as he goes along,” Nandlall stated in Court.
He observed that the words ‘absolute’ and ‘simple’ in terms of majority votes were not included by the framers of the Constitution.
The no-confidence motion brought by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) against the Government in the National Assembly succeeded when former AFC parliamentarian Persaud voted in favour of the motion.