One day after the coalition Government becomes illegal if an extension to its life is not granted, Guyana’s Court of Appeal is expected to hand down its ruling on all the appeals filed in relation to the No-confidence Motion cases.
Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, disclosed on Wednesday that the decisions on all the appeals of the High Court’s rulings will be delivered by the appellate Judges at 15:00h.
This announcement was made following hours of submissions, by the parties involved, on the issue of the validity of former AFC Member of Parliament Charrandas Persaud’s vote given his dual citizenship status, which was challenged by Government supporter, Compton Reid.
While these rulings will be handed down one day after the 90-day deadline would have expired, Senior Counsel Neil Boston, representing Reid in the proceedings, renewed a stay application on the no-confidence resolution.
However, this was not allowed.
“No stay is going be granted because the stay application would have been overtaken by the appeal itself…” Attorney Anil Nandlall explained outside the court.
The lawyers representing the State’s interest in these proceedings still insists that there will be no crisis after today’s expiration of the constitutionally mandated March 21 deadline for the hosting of General and Regional Elections. But according to Nandlall, a former Attorney General who is representing Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, contended otherwise.
“How is there not going to be a crisis when the constitutional life of the Government expires and the Government has not fixed a date for elections within that time. The complete Government is illegal,” Nandlall asserted.
He went on to say that “The State of Guyana now has no legal and constitutional Government that will be in office after the expiration of the 90-day or three-month period, and that is the reality. They can play whatever politics they want but legally, the Government’s life has come to an end.”
According to Nandlall, the Government cannot induce the Doctrine of Necessity, as being claimed by the coalition, because they are the ones who has caused the crisis in the first place by violating the law.
“If that is the position then every government will stay beyond its tenure in office, invoke the Doctrine of Necessity and don’t call elections when elections are due… Responsible government and constitutional government as we know it will break down and the Doctrine of Necessity will become the refuge of despotic and inter legal government if that becomes the law. So you can’t have a dictator who ignores the Constitution, refuses to hold elections when elections are due and then invoke the Doctrine of Necessity. The law will never countenance such a position,” Nandlall further pointed out.
Nevertheless, back in the courtroom, the Appellate Judges heard submissions from the lawyers on the dual citizenship case. Acting Chief Justice Roxane George had ruled back in January that while Persaud was illegally sitting in the National Assembly because of his dual citizen status, his December 21, 2018 vote on the Opposition’s No-confidence Motion was valid since an elections petition was not filed in the stipulated time to challenge his qualification as a MP.
In court, Nandlall argued that the appellant challenging the qualifications of the former AFC parliamentarian to sit in the House and the only way this can be done is through an elections petition. He outlined that having already approach the court by the wrong procedure, the time has long past for such a petition to be filed.
“The law prescribed 28 days for such a challenge to be made, they came several years out of time. And in any event, Charrandas’ vote is saved by a provision in the Constitution which says that notwithstanding that person may not be qualified to sit in the Assembly but who has actually sat and participated in the proceedings, those proceedings and their validity are saved.”
This position was also proffered by Attorney Sanjeev Datadin, representing Persaud, who further submitted to the court that it does not have a jurisdiction to impose any sanctions stemming from the former MP’s actions, as is being asked for by the appellant, since there is no provisions for such.
The State Counsels from the Attorney General’s Chambers including Deputy Solicitor Nigel Hawke as well as Attorney Roysdale Forde, representing Minister of State Joseph Harmon, also presented arguments similar to and supporting submissions made by SC Boston.
Meanwhile, Senior Counsel Rafiq Turhan Khan, representing Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, did not make any submissions, informing the court that they would be guided by whatever decision is made.
Last month, Government asked the Appeal Court to set aside the judgements made by Justice the Chief Justice and filed a series of appeals.
In the first case of the Attorney General (AG) v Speaker of the National Assembly and Opposition Leader, which deals with the 33 to 32 majority that was used to pass the No-confidence Motion, Williams is arguing that “there was a miscalculation of the majority of all elected members as required under Article 106 (6) of the Constitution for the Government to be defeated on a vote of no confidence”.
Meanwhile, another case was AG v Christopher Ram, who had successfully sought to have the High Court validate the no-confidence resolution and have Government comply with constitutional provisions to demit office and call elections no later than March of this year.
The Chief Justice had upheld both cases, ruling that the no-confidence vote was validly passed, and that Cabinet should have resigned. However, Williams in his appeal is claiming that the Chief Justice made an error in both of these rulings.
In addition, Appeals were also filed by the lawyers appearing for State Minister Joseph Harmon; while a cross appeal was filed on behalf of Christopher Ram and an appeal was also filed on the dual citizenship issue.