…Judge orders AG to “put his house in order”
…PPP condemns “characteristic incompetence” of Basil Williams
Given the national importance of the challenges to the no-confidence case, stakeholders have been calling on the Judiciary to ensure the matter is fast-tracked. However, defects in the summons filed in the Appeal Court by Government to stay last month’s High Court rulings on the no-confidence resolution means Attorney General Basil Williams will have to refile one of the summons in the matter. This was the order handed down by Justice Rishi Persaud in preliminary proceedings on Wednesday ahead of the overall case.
The Attorney General is expected to file the corrected documents at latest today as he holds out the stay and conservatory orders are necessary to preserve Government’s continuance in office for the foreseeable future. Justice Persaud said moments prior that the summons must be filed without defect and be corrected. The Attorney General was seeking to amend the appeal to include the names of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and Minister of State Joseph Harmon that were not included as named respondents.
Williams was arguing that it could still be included by way of amendment but Justice Persaud reminded him that he had no jurisdiction to carry out such an order since only the full bench of Judges could make such amendments. Senior Counsel Neil Boston, attorney for Government supporter, Compton Reid, who challenged the validity of the no-confidence vote passed in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018, contended that he would need some 10 days to properly prepare his case but this was not entertained by the court.
However, the proceedings had the Opposition’s Leader’s Attorney, Anil Nandlall, venting over the delay. He earlier told the court that it is the appellant’s responsibility to properly include all named parties in an appeal as he too observed that the single Judge could not make amendments to the appeal. Nandlall later pointed out that he will be briefed with his input in this case as he does not intend to file affidavits in the appeals.
“We would like a decision as early as possible, my intervention is going to be very brief, I don’t intend to file any affidavits in the matter, I didn’t file any in the High Court and I would not file any here, I believe that the matter raised pure issues of law which can be addressed quickly, quicker than we have done in the High Court because this issue here is even narrower than that in the High Court,” Nandlall expressed.
Last month, acting Chief Justice Roxane George refused the Attorney General’s request for a stay and conservatory order prior to her rulings, but Government is moving ahead with asking the Appeal Court to stay those rulings while it considers setting aside the judgements made by Justice George.
The first case called on Wednesday was the Attorney General v Christopher Ram, who had successfully sought to have the High Court validate the no-confidence resolution and have Government call elections within three months as the court declared. The other appeal deals with the Attorney General v Speaker of the National Assembly and Opposition Leader, concerning 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”.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Opposition Leader were both added to the matters at the High Court level. Reid, the private citizen, was challenging the validity of former AFC Member of Parliament Charrandas Persaud’s vote on the No-confidence Motion given his dual citizenship status.
On December 21, 2018, Persaud voted with the Opposition and unseat the current Administration. As a consequence, elections are meant to be called within three months as per the Constitution of Guyana. However, the Administration has been unmoved by this confirmed interpretation by Justice George, saying that the status quo of Government should be preserved until the final determination of the matter should it reach the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). On Wednesday, Justice Persaud remarked that “we have to get our house in order” if the matter is carried all the way to the CCJ.
Meanwhile, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in a statement after the case was heard condemned what it described as “characteristic incompetence of the Attorney General in matters of national importance, which coincidentally, is symptomatic of the ineptitude across the entire spectrum of the Government.”
According to the Party, the three-month constitutional life of the Government, since the passing of the No-Confidence Motion, is rapidly coming to an end.
“We are aware that the Records of Appeal, in all these matters, have been settled on Friday, the 15th day of February 2019, and therefore, these appeals are now ripe for hearing,” the Party said.
The Party also called on the Chancellor of the Judiciary to fix these appeals for hearing, immediately, rather than have precious judicial time and resources be expended on identifying and rectifying blunders in Applications for Stay of Execution.
According to the party it has also made an application to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to fix an early date for the hearing and determination of its appeal pending in that Court, which was filed against the decision of the Guyana Court of Appeal, in relation to the appointment of Rtd Justice James Patterson, as the Chairman of the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM)