CCJ to hear unilateral GECOM Chair appointment case today
Starting from today, a number of cases will come up for hearing before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – cases which, when decided upon, will have major effects on Guyana and the holding of General and Regional Elections.
The first such case, which will be heard at 10:00h, will be the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman’s unilateral appointment cases. This is a matter which will ultimately decide the future of current Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, being at the helm of the agency.
The CCJ had set May 8 as the date to hear the case, which was brought by the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) Executive Secretary Zulfikar Mustapha, challenging the appointment of Patterson.
Patterson was appointed to the position of Chairman of GECOM in 2017 after President Granger had rejected three lists comprising 18 names submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for the post of GECOM Chairman.
Last year, Chief Justice (acting) Roxane George had ruled that the Constitution of Guyana, in fact, allows for the President to unilaterally appoint someone to fill the position of Chairman of GECOM.
Meanwhile, the three No-Confidence Motion cases deal with Christopher Ram v The Attorney General of Guyana, the Leader of the Opposition and Joseph Harmon; Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo v the Attorney General of Guyana, Dr Barton Scotland and Joseph Harmon; and Charrandas Persaud v Compton Herbert Reid, Dr Barton Scotland, Bharrat Jagdeo and Joseph Harmon; the last of which deals with Persaud’s eligibility to vote in the House.
These cases have all been consolidated and will be heard on Thursday, May 9, at 10:00h and continue to Friday, May 10, at 9:00h, before CCJ Justices Adrian Saunders, David Hayton and Jacob Wit in Courtroom 1.
On March 22, a divided Appeal Court ruled that a majority of 34 votes would have been needed to validly pass the No-Confidence Motion brought against the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government last year.
Government had subsequently asked the House to reverse the passage of the motion, but its Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, had declined the request and had advised that the court be approached. As such, Government had gone to the High Court to challenge the validity of the motion, saying that a 34 majority is needed for it to be successfully passed.
Acting Chief Justice Roxane George had, in January, upheld the December 21, 2018, passage of the No-Confidence Motion, ruling that in Guyana’s 65-member National Assembly, a majority is 33. This, however, was appealed by Attorney General Basil Williams.
While Justice Rishi Persaud dismissed the appeal and conferred with the ruling of the High Court, his colleague appellate judges allowed the State’s appeal.
Both Justices Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Dawn Gregory opined that while 33 is the majority of the 65-member National Assembly, the successful passage of a No-Confidence Motion requires an “absolute majority” of 34, and not the “simple” majority of 33 that has been used to pass ordinary business in the House.