Opposition returns to High Court seeking constitutional compliance
Resignation of Cabinet case
…submissions made, case adjourned
The parliamentary Opposition has returned to the High Court seeking to force the Government to comply with the Constitution of Guyana, this time Article 106 of the Constitution which sets out that Cabinet must resign after a No-Confidence Motion.
Bringing the case is former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who is seeking from acting Chief Justice Roxane George orders compelling Cabinet, which has been meeting despite the clear language of the Constitution.
“We are asking for a declaration that Cabinet was resigned on the passage of the No-Confidence Motion. Alternatively, we’re asking for an order that Cabinet be resigned, because the Chief Justice had ruled that they were resigned by application of law,” he said in an interview afterwards.
He added that the Opposition is asking for an order giving effect to that resignation. “And we’re asking for an order restraining Cabinet from meeting, because they are disbanded and no longer in existence,” Nandlall further explained.
In response to Nandlall’s submissions, Attorney General Basil Williams is arguing that his return to the court is an abuse of the court process. Nandlall slammed the AG for skimming over the constitutional provision requiring his and the rest of the Cabinet’s resignations.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to resort to this kind of strenuous efforts in the court to get the Government to obey the Constitution. Every one of you read the Constitution and would know that Article 106 says that upon the successful passage of the No-Confidence Motion, Cabinet inclusive of the President shall resign.”
He added that 10 months after the passage of the No-Confidence Motion, the Opposition is “battling for the Government to give effect to that provision of the Constitution which is our supreme law. This is the level to which we have descended. And rather than the AG come here and concede, he comes here and says it is an abuse of process. It’s an atrocious contention. Instead of come here and apologise to the court and then go and advise his Cabinet to resign, he comes here with a straight face and says we are abusing the court.”
According to Nandlall, all they are seeking is for the Government to comply with the Constitution. In her deliberations, Chief Justice Roxane George gave Nandlall five days in which to make their submissions while Williams was given until September 21 to file on behalf of the Government. The next court hearing will be held on September 30 at 13:30h.
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, Article 106 (7) goes on to say: “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.”
A No-Confidence Motion was passed against the Government since December 21 of last year. However, elections were not held and there was no resignation. Instead, the Government went through several levels of court, unsuccessfully arguing that the No-Confidence Motion was not validly passed.
At the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the final court had thrown out the Government’s case and had handed down judgement saying that when the No-Confidence Motion was passed on December 21, 2019, Article 106 of the Constitution had immediately been activated. In addition, the court had noted that the provisions of the Article were clear.
Instead of immediately starting serious preparations to hold elections in the shortest possible time, however, GECOM proceeded to carry out House-to-House Registration based on the orders of unilaterally appointed former Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson. The exercise has since been stopped, but GECOM has since proposed a March 2020 timeframe for holding elections.
When it comes to Cabinet resigning, Government had initially announced that it would no longer be holding Cabinet sessions but rather, decisions would be made using a “ministerial plenary” that still retained the powers of Cabinet. They have since resorted back to using “Cabinet” to describe these meetings.