AG seeking stay of CJ’s ruling on Parliamentary Secretaries

Attorney General Anil Nandlall has filed an application with the Guyana Court of Appeal (CoA) for a stay of Chief Justice Roxane George’s ruling in which she declared that the appointments of Vickash Ramkissoon and Sarah Browne as non-elected members of the National Assembly and Parliamentary Secretaries were unlawful.
Justice George in her ruling dated April 20, 2021, held that the appointments violated Articles 113, 186, and 103 (3) of the Constitution of Guyana. The Chief Justice said that Browne and Ramkissoon cannot be appointed as non-elected Members of Parliament (MPs) since they were named on the List of Candidates presented by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.
In arriving at her decision, the Chief Justice used the ruling of the Court of Appeal in the case of Attorney General v Morian as precedent. In that case, PPP/C member Dennis Morian had filed a constitutional motion challenging the legality of former APNU/AFC Technocrat Ministers Keith Scott and Winston Felix.
Felix, who was at the time the Minister of Citizenship, and Scott, the Minister with responsibility for Labour, were candidates on the coalition’s list in the 2015 General and Regional Elections.
In 2016, Chief Justice Ian Chang declared that both Scott and Felix were unlawfully and unconstitutionally occupying seats in the National Assembly due to their status as elected members.
In January of 2020, the Court of Appeal upheld the late Justice Chang’s decision. Back in December 2020, Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones moved to the High Court challenging Browne and Ramkissoon’s appointments.
Among other things, he had asked the Chief Justice to grant an order compelling the Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir to prevent Browne and Ramkissoon from sitting and participating in the business of the National Assembly. The Chief Justice, however, refused to grant the coercive order, stating that it was
left in the hands of the House Speaker to enforce the court’s judgement.

Shortly after Justice George rendered her decision, the Attorney General filed an appeal. Among other things, Nandlall contended that the “decision of the learned hearing Judge that a Parliamentary Secretary cannot sit in the Parliament is erroneous and misconceived in law. The decision does not accord with the clear and unambiguous binding language of the Constitution…”
Public Trustee and Official Receiver Prithima Kissoon, in an affidavit, said she was advised by Nandlall and believes that the Chief Justice erred and misdirected herself in law by failing to appreciate that although there are similarities in the two cases, there are also differences in the constitutional regime on the appointment of Technocratic Ministers in comparison to Parliamentary Secretaries.
According to Kissoon, historically, in Guyana, Parliamentary Secretaries were appointed from among members of the National Assembly. She pointed out that the category of persons who may be appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries was expanded in the 1980 Constitution to include persons who were qualified to be elected.

She reminded that in the ninth Parliament, Pauline Sukhai whose name appeared on the List of Candidates for the PPP/C was appointed a Parliamentary Secretary to assist the Minister of Tourism as a non-elected member of the National Assembly, without any objection for the duration of that Parliament
The Public Trustee also reminded that during the tenth Parliament, Joseph Hamilton, now Minister of Labour, whose name did not appear on the List of Candidates for PPP/C or any other List of Candidates, was appointed a Parliamentary Secretary as a non-elected member without any objection for the duration of that Parliament.
Having regards to these circumstances, Kissoon submitted that “it cannot be disputed that the appeal is not only grounded in merit but raises fundamental issues of interpretation of the Constitution, as well as, issues integral to Guyana’s parliamentary and constitutional democracy.”