33-seat Govt goes to Court for 34-seat “majority” declaration
Government, through Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams on Monday, filed a case in the High Court for the court to put on hold the enforcement of the no-confidence resolution, which was passed on December 21, 2018.
At the same time, Williams also applied for a conservatory order to allow for the Government to continue in office while the matter is being heard.
On the other hand, however, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has made an application in the High Court to become a party to the proceedings brought by private citizen Compton Reid.
Reid is challenging the validity of the vote of former Member of Parliament (MP) Charrandas Persaud, stating that he had falsely declared that he was a Guyanese citizen.
In the fixed-date application filed by Williams, the AG seeks relief under the Constitution by way of petitioning the court to grant several orders with House Speaker Dr Barton Scotland and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo as the named respondents.
Williams 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.
In his petition, he argued that the current total 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.
“The ruling of the Speaker that the motion was purportedly carried by a majority vote of 33:32 raises concerns of serious national interest and grave and significant constitutional issues that are central to Guyana’s democracy, stability and constitutional ethos,” the petition added.
The AG said he has several grounds for the application and those include his ability to refer or state a question of law to the High Court especially in relation to this serious constitutional issue on the validity of a no-confidence vote pursuant to rule 61.03 of the Civil Procedure Rules 2016.
The Government believes there was not a majority passage of the no-confidence motion. But the Opposition disagrees 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 or at a time agreed to by two-thirds of the National Assembly.
In his request for a conservatory order, Williams 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.
However, Williams said the period for the hearing and determination of the matter may expire before that time. As such, he believes a stay of the enforcement of the resolution is necessary in order to avoid the process being rendered insignificant.
“…and in all the circumstances the applicant is satisfied that there exists an arguable case on the questions in controversy with a realistic prospect of success on the part of the Government,” the document added, noting that the Speaker’s ruling begs for the court’s intervention.
Meanwhile, Jagdeo, in his application which was also filed on Monday through Attorney Anil Nandlall, said that the case put forward by Reid is aimed at nullifying the no-confidence motion and to prevent the law taking its course through the provisions outlined in the Constitution.
Further, he stated that it 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.
“It is imperative that the applicant be permitted to join these proceedings not only to protect its integrity, but in order to protect and preserve the will of a majority of the elected members who voted in favour of the said no-confidence motion,” the petition filed on behalf of Jagdeo added.
Jagdeo is expected to meet with President David Granger on Wednesday. This meeting is coming on the heels of the governing coalition challenging the passage of the resolution of no confidence, contending that the motion needed a 34-majority vote to be approved.
This contention has been Government’s lifeline ever since Attorney Nigel Hughes, husband of Government Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes, raised the argument.