Boston insists MPs cannot vote “conscience” but toe party line
…to invalidate Charrandas’s NCM vote
As the case on the validity of the No-Confidence Motion passed against the APNU/AFC Government on December 21, 2018, continued on Friday before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Senior Counsel Neil Boston is maintaining that any Member of Parliament (MP) must vote in accordance with the party he represents although there is no statutory provision that supports this claim.
Boston, who is representing coalition Government supporter Compton Reid in the matter of the validity of former Government MP Charrandas Persaud’s vote against the Administration, told the Court that a political party functions on the strength of shared beliefs and that any freedom of its members to “vote as they please independently of the political party declared” will embarrass the party’s public image and popularity. It will also undermine public confidence which Boston said is the “source of substance” in its very survival.
Loyalty to party is the norm, he said, adding that “it is not like in London, this is a different system in Guyana, loyalty to the party is the norm being based on shared belief. To vote against your list is disloyalty, voting with the other side smacks of conspiracy… Mr Charrandas, pursuant to our system, Mr Charrandas has no constituency, he is put there as a front for the APNU/AFC list, that is his function there, and he has to carry out the mandate and the dictates of the list, nobody voted for him”.
However, this argument put forward by Boston was questioned by Justice David Hayton, who sought to clarify the evidence that would support the attorney’s line of reasoning.
“Where is the statutory provision that says he must vote according to the list? And that if he doesn’t do so then his vote can’t be recorded? If that was what was intended, it could be simply stated like that. Nowhere can I find any provision like that,” Justice Hayton enquired.
Boston conceded that as much as there is no such provision, it is an obligation of the Court, having construed the purpose and intention of that section of the Constitution, to prevent a member from voting against his list, adding that then the Court is duty bound to give effect to that.
“That would be the idea but the essence of ideas or the execution of them, it does not appear that the idea has been carried into effect in clear language in the Statutes,” said Justice Hayton.
Senior Counsel Boston confirmed to the Court that there is no section in the Statutes which says that the vote is not valid if a person votes against his or her party from which his or her name has been extracted.
“It does not say so. It is the Court [that] has to construe Article 156 (3) and come to the conclusion if this is the spirit and intention of Article 156 (3) that you can’t vote against your list without sending a letter to the list representative or the Speaker of the National Assembly then the Court is duty bound to give effect to that spirit of the Constitution,” Boston said in his submissions to the court.
Boston was asked by the CCJ Justice Winston Anderson “How do you reconcile your position with the possibility under 106 (6) that the Cabinet could fall because the Government is defeated in a vote of confidence in the Parliament?”
But the attorney alluded to that having to be decided by the National Assembly at “some future date” and that the legislators will have to “deal with this conflict”.
However, this did not sit well with CCJ Justice Winston Anderson.
“We are presented with it now and we have to interpret the Constitution now and it seems to me that 106 (6) is suggesting that the Government could fall on a vote of confidence. Would you accept that? …So how can a Government fall on a vote of confidence if nobody can cross the floor? If nobody can vote against their list? How is it possible to give effect to 106 (6)?”
Boston in answering this stated that the relevant authorities “probably did not review that section in the way it ought to be reviewed and they will have to go back to the National Assembly to deal with that issue.” (Kristen Macklingam)