As the March 21, 2019 countdown for elections approaches, all eyes will be focused on acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, who is slated to hand down decisions on several legal challenges at the High Court today.
These relate to last December’s passage of the no-confidence motion that toppled the David Granger-led coalition Administration after now-expelled Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament (MP) Charrandas Persaud voted in favour of the Opposition-filed motion.
One of the cases to be ruled upon today is that of Government supporter Campton Reid, who is challenging the validity of Persaud’s vote, stating that he had falsely declared that he was a Guyanese citizen. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, through Attorney Anil Nandlall, obtained approval to become a party to the proceedings. Jagdeo had pointed to political issues that could have far-reaching implications for national democracy, peace, order, and good governance in Guyana. As such, he believes that filing a legal action will help to diminish the possibility of this ever occurring.
The other case filed on behalf of Government by Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams seeks to have the court put on hold the enforcement of the no-confidence resolution, which came into effect on December 21, 2018. Williams, who is seeking relief under the Constitution, wants the court to rule on whether the Speaker’s decision on 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.
On Wednesday, AG Williams presented further submissions before Chief Justice (ag) George.
In his petition that was filed separately from the dual citizenship challenge, Williams argued that the current total of elected members of the National Assembly was 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. This contention has been Government’s position ever since Attorney Nigel Hughes, husband of Government Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes, raised the argument.
The Opposition disagrees with this position and believes that the Government is attempting to buy time in office. Under the Constitution, on the passage of a no-confidence motion, elections must be called within three months. If additional time is needed, then there must be agreement of two-thirds of the National Assembly.
Acting Chief Justice George will also rule on Attorney and Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram’s case 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. Ram has also argued that Cabinet’s failure to resign with all convenient speed and to fix an elections date could lead to uncertainty and constitutional crisis.
Ram had provided a certified copy of the no-confidence resolution as provided by Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs as part of his evidence to support his case.
On Monday, the Opposition Leader reiterated that with each day that passes without President David Granger announcing a date for General and Regional Elections, Guyana slipped closer to a constitutional crisis.
Jagdeo on Monday hosted meetings at his Church Street, Georgetown office with foreign diplomats to apprise them of the political situation in Guyana following the no-confidence resolution and to voice the parliamentary Opposition’s concerns.
“They’re (Government) behaving as if nothing happened and we’re in a normal situation, when we’re heading to a constitutional crisis. So, I pointed out clearly about that rapid pathway to a constitutional crisis and what will take place once the country gets into that situation, how we will act. And you are aware in the public domain what the approach will be on our side.”