CJ rules appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries unlawful

…Judge misconstrued, misinterpreted Constitution – AG says in appeal

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall will be appealing a decision handed down on Tuesday by acting Chief Justice Roxane George that the appointment of two Parliamentary Secretaries in September 2020 was unlawful.

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George

The Chief Justice handed down her ruling in a virtual court session. According to her ruling, the appointments of Vickash Ramkissoon and Sarah Browne as Parliamentary Secretaries were unlawful and they cannot be considered lawful members of the National Assembly.
Justice George cited Articles 113, 186 and 103 (3) of the Constitution of Guyana in arriving at her decision. She also said that the lower court was bound by the 2020 decision of the Court of Appeal in the matter of Attorney General v Morian.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC

Attorney General v Morian is the case of People’s Progressive Party (PPP) member Dennis Morian, who had filed a constitutional challenge against the legality of former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Technocrat Ministers Keith Scott and Winston Felix.
Felix, who was at the time the Minister of Citizenship and Scott, the Minister with responsibility for Labour, were candidates on the coalition’s list in the 2015 General and Regional Elections.
Then Chief Justice Ian Chang in the 2016 High Court proceedings had ruled that those two MPs were unlawfully and unconstitutionally occupying seats in the National Assembly, due to their status as elected members. In January of 2020, the Court of Appeal upheld the late Justice Chang’s decision.
However, Chief Justice George stopped short of granting the coercive orders initially sought by the applicant, Christopher Jones. This means that the enforcement of her judgement within the walls of the National Assembly will be in the hands of Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir.

Parliamentary Secretaries Sarah Browne (left) and Vickash Ramkissoon

Nandlall has meanwhile indicated his intention to appeal the ruling. According to the Notice of Appeal seen by this newscast, the AG will be seeking to have the Chief Justice’s ruling set aside or varied and for costs to be awarded.
His grounds include arguments that the Chief Justice misdirected herself in the law. According to the AG’s application, the Chief Justice erred by considering the court bound by AG v Morian, instead of the constitutional provisions.
“The decision of the learned hearing Judge that a Parliamentary Secretary cannot sit in the Parliament is erroneous and misconceived in law. The decision does not accord with the clear and unambiguous binding language of the Constitution of Guyana,” the AG wrote in the notice.
Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, the applicant in the case, had contended that the appointments of Browne and Ramkissoon as non-elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and Parliamentary Secretaries to the Amerindian Affairs and Agriculture Ministries, respectively, were done in breach of the Constitution of Guyana.
According to proceedings filed in the High Court, Jones through his lawyer, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, was contending that Browne and Ramkissoon cannot be appointed as non-elected MPs since they were named on the List of Candidates presented by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic for the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
Noting that Browne and Ramkissoon continue to be members of the National Assembly, Jones asked the court to grant an order compelling the Speaker of the National Assembly to prevent them from sitting in and participating in the business of the National Assembly.