… to complete “majority” and “dual citizen” cases by January 31
Chief Justice (acting) Roxane George on Tuesday rejected Government’s attempts to extend its time in office on the grounds of the ongoing no-confidence vote case, informing the court that these matters will all be expedited owing to their national significance.
Government had sought a conservatory order to stay the enforcement of the no-confidence resolution pending the court case. But Chief Justice George told Attorney General Basil Williams that she intended to make her ruling by January month end and, therefore, such an order was unnecessary.
According to the Chief Justice, the entire country is awaiting the resolution of the cases and as such, there will be no delays.
She gave the sides a date of January 18 to exchange submissions, January 21 for rebuttal submissions and in the case of Christopher Ram vs the Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly, submissions will be heard on January 23.
Oral submissions for Compton Reid vs the Attorney General, former MP Charrandas Persaud and the Speaker of the National Assembly will be heard on January 24.
And finally, in the case of the Attorney General vs the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Opposition Leader, oral submissions will be done on January 25.
The Attorney General also informed the court of his wish to have additional arguments included in claimant Compton Reid’s claim. When the narrow time frame was pointed out to him, Williams held his ground.
Chief Justice George informed Williams that since it was a legal issue, an affidavit was not needed. However, Williams was eventually granted permission by the Chief Justice to make submissions in two of the three cases which relate to Article 70 of the Constitution of Guyana.
Williams, who was seeking relief under the Constitution, had wanted the court to rule on whether the Speaker’s decision that the December 21, 2018 motion was indeed carried by a majority of all elected members, and whether or not the 33-to-32 breakdown means it was validly passed.
In his petition, which was filed separately from the dual citizenship challenge, Williams argued that the current total of elected members of the National Assembly is 65, and the majority of members legally prescribed by Article 106 (6) of the Constitution is tantamount to an absolute majority that legally requires a vote of 34 or more.
In his request for a conservatory order, Williams had said it was necessary to preserve the status quo as Article 106 (7) of the Constitution requires that the President and all Ministers of the Government remain in office and hold elections within three months.
Justice George’s decision to expedite the cases was lauded by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who noted that the court deserves credit for its impartiality in the matter. He did not rule out that the Chief Justice may have taken into account the 90-day deadline for elections after the passage of a no-confidence motion.
“It is one of the first times, actually, that I’ve seen a court demonstrate a true appreciation of the fact that certain types of matters of national importance should be heard and determined with every convenient speed. I think this court should be roundly complimented for appreciating that reality.
“I’m also happy that all attempts made by lawyers in this matter to stall and delay was rejected by the court and the court was firm that the matter must be determined by the end of the month and has given appropriate directions.”
Attorney Neil Boston, who appeared on behalf of claimant Compton Reid, acknowledged that the Chief Justice’s decision superseded the conservatory order and thus, it has been rendered unnecessary.
“The conservatory order at this time is not important, because the final issue will be determined by the end of the month. So, what are we conserving? Even on the date of ruling, the three months would not have expired, pursuant to [Art] 106.”
On December 21, 2018, the no-confidence motion brought by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo brought down the entire Government by a 33-to-32 vote majority when then Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament, Charrandas Persaud defected and supported the motion.
Persons have for some time argued that the Cabinet should have resigned by now, pursuant to the laws of Guyana. Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
Meanwhile, clause 7 goes on to state that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
Even though less than 90 days remain in which elections must be held, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has made no significant moves towards preparing for holding elections.