…asks court to urgently review Appeal Court’s “absolute” majority decision
Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo through his Attorneys on Tuesday filed a notice of application for special leave to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), in relation to the decision of the Guyana Court of Appeal on the no-confidence cases.
The application was filed by Douglas Mendes, Devesh Maharaj, Anil Nandlall, Kandace Bharath, and CV Satram. The named respondents in this matter are: Attorney General Basil Williams, Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, and Minister Joseph Harmon, a representative of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
The application is seeking an order to grant Jagdeo special leave to appeal the majority judgement of the Court of Appeal of Guyana delivered on March 22, 2019 by acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Justice Rishi Persaud, and Justice Dawn Gregory.
Further, the Attorneys are seeking an order to treat the hearing of the application as urgent and a further order for an expedited hearing of the application. Also, it is seeking an order directing that the hearing of the application for special leave to appeal be treated as the hearing of the appeal against the majority judgment, and that certain orders be made in the appeal.
This includes an order setting aside or reversing the majority judgement of the Court of Appeal of Guyana and resorting to the decision of the acting Chief Justice Roxane George made on January 31, 2019; a declaration that the resolution of the National Assembly is valid; and a declaration that the no-confidence motion moved by Jagdeo was validly passed on December 21, 2018.
Jagdeo, through his attorneys, is also seeking a declaration that puts to rest that 33 votes/members constitute a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly within the meaning of Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana. The application is also seeking costs.
Nandlall has said that there would be a case management conference conducted by the CCJ on Friday morning in respect of this matter. He said, “We expect that directions will be given by the Court, which will bring about an early hearing and determination of the appeal”.
The acting Chief Justice, in January, upheld the December 21, 2018 passage of the no-confidence motion, ruling that in Guyana’s 65-member National Assembly a majority is 33. This, however, was appealed by Attorney General Basil Williams.
But while Justice Persaud has dismissed the appeal and concurred with the ruling of the High Court, his colleague appellate Judges allowed the State’s appeal.
Both Justices Cummings-Edwards and Gregory opined that while 33 was the majority of the 65-member National Assembly, the successful passage of a no-confidence motion required an “absolute majority” of 34 and not the “simple” 33 majority that has been used to pass ordinary business in the House.
Following the ruling, Jagdeo stated that the Constitution of Guyana is pellucid on what number of votes is needed for the passage of a no-confidence motion; it is a majority of all elected parliamentarians – the majority of 65 is 33 votes.
According to him, the Constitution is clear in saying that the vote is valid if a majority of all elected parliamentarians – 33 parliamentarians – cast their vote in favour of the passage of a no-confidence motion.
He added that all right-thinking Guyanese would conclude that 33 is the majority of 65 – a conclusion that was extensively addressed by the acting Chief Justice in her ruling.
“No strange mathematics can change what is in the Constitution … a majority of all elected members in the National Assembly is 33,” Jagdeo said.
He explained that the argument about a vote of 34 being needed was not the argument he expected to be used by the Appeal Court to overturn the ruling of the Chief Justice (ag).
The Opposition Leader noted that in 2014, when the Alliance For Change (AFC), supported by APNU, advanced a no-confidence motion against then President Donald Ramotar, it was done with the explicit acknowledgement that AFC and APNU had the 33 votes that were needed for their no-confidence motion to be successful.
He added that prior to the December 21, 2018 vote, the coalition Government boasted that it had 33 votes, and, therefore, the no-confidence motion could not be passed with a vote of 32.
After the vote, according to him, both President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo accepted that the PPP/Civic no-confidence motion was validly passed in the House.
In addition, Attorney and social commentator, Christopher Ram posited that the Court made a grave error of unquestioning acceptance of decisions and principles from afar with no regard that, at best, they could be of no more than persuasive value.
In the process, he added, Friday’s decision marked a turning point in Guyana’s jurisprudence, introducing a harmful level of uncertainty into constitutional and statutory interpretation in local courts. In this regard, he stated that the Court was “wrong” in its interpretation of what constitutes a majority in the National Assembly.