“Strange Mathematics” cannot change what is in Guyana’s Constitution – Jagdeo
…assures supporters the struggle continues
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.
This declaration was made by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Friday (March 22, 2019) evening in a televised video recording following the hot-button issue that was the ruling of the Appeal Court on the cases related to the no-confidence motion.
The Court of Appeal on Friday overturned the ruling of the Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George-Wiltshire, relative to one of the three cases that challenged the validity of the vote on the no- confidence motion on December 21, 2018 – a vote that was upheld by Guyana’s Legislature. In a 2-1 vote, Justices Yonnette Cummings-Edwards and Dawn Gregory ruled that the 33 votes are not a majority of 65; rather, 34 is the majority. Justice Rishi Persaud voted to uphold the ruling of the Chief Justice (ag), which was handed down on January 31, 2019.
Jagdeo noted that Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states that: “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.”
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 Chief Justice (ag) 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).
“I thought (that) if the Chief Justice’s ruling was to be overturned, it would have been on another technicality, not this one…this is probably the weakest argument,” Jagdeo said, adding that the ruling of the Chief Justice was profound and well-reasoned.
The Chief Justice in her ruling had said: “While the terms ‘simple majority’ and ‘absolute majority’ may be useful in common parlance for the purposes of interpretation – and some Constitutions do have such language – it might be best to focus on the meanings of those terms instead of the terms themselves. That is, instead of asking what constitutes an ‘absolute majority’, this court will consider what constitutes a ‘majority of all elected Members of the National Assembly’.
“…in the case of a requirement for a majority of all elected members of the National Assembly, at least thirty-three (33) votes must always be obtained to meet that requirement.
“…it must be noted here that in the no-confidence motion moved in our National Assembly, the Speaker found that the motion had been carried by a majority of thirty-three – thirty-two (33-32).
“It must also be noted that, as the Applicant [Attorney General Basil Williams] admitted in his oral submissions, no one in the National Assembly at the time, neither the elected members nor anyone else, indicated to the Speaker that the vote could not be carried by a majority of thirty-three – thirty-two (33-32).
“…in our 65-member National Assembly, therefore, a majority of all elected members of the National Assembly, in accordance with the principle of “one over all rivals combined”, is thirty-three (33) members. This is so since the maximum number of potential opposers can only be thirty-two (32).”
The Opposition Leader noted that, in 2014, when the Alliance For Change (AFC), supported by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), advanced a no-confidence motion against former 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/C no-confidence motion was validly passed in the House.
Move To The CCJ
Making it clear that the ruling of the Appeal Court will be respected, Jagdeo disclosed that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) will be moving swiftly to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
“We hope that we will be able to convince the CCJ that the no-confidence motion has been validly passed,” he said.
According to him, the adverse ruling of the Appeal Court allows the PPP/C to pursue the matter swiftly at the CCJ, as opposed to being faced with the possibility of a drawn out process led by the Coalition if the Appeal Court had gone in a different direction.
Relative to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Jagdeo stated that the PPP/C will continue to call for GECOM to be prepared for early elections.
“There is a great possibility that the CCJ will overturn the ruling of the Appeal Court… If it is overturned and GECOM is not prepared, there could be further delays. If we do prevail at the level of the CCJ, then GECOM must be ready for Elections soon, very soon,” he said.
Message To Supporters
Addressing supporters of the PPP/C directly, Jagdeo acknowledged that while some may view the Appeal Court’s ruling as a setback, the PPP/C was aware that the Appeal Court represented a hurdle; more so, considering the rulings in political cases, such as the challenge to the unilateral appointment of the Chairman of GECOM by President Granger.
“I urge all of you not to be dejected…we have to keep working hard, talking about what we stand for and bringing people together… We knew that this was a hurdle, but that is why we have an external review by way of the CCJ,” the Opposition Leader said.
He added that the PPP/C will remain mobilized, and will continue to work to expose the nature of the APNU+AFC Coalition.
“We will continue to work across all of Guyana… People have seen the true nature of this Government…they want to hang on to power…the struggle has to be intense…they cannot hide from an election forever…they can hang around for a while, but they cannot hide forever…the Election will come,” the Opposition Leader said.