The High Court Friday ruled that two government ministers – Keith Scott and Winston Felix- could not sit in the National Assembly as un-elected members or technocrats because they are on the list of elected candidates for the coalition.
“They are elected members of the National Assembly since you vote for a list. When seats were allocated, they were allocated from a list in terms of number so all the persons on the list are elected members of the National Assembly but if you are not on the list you can’t be an elected member,” outgoing Chief Justice, Ian Chang told Demerara Waves Online News.
People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) member, Desmond Morian had moved to the High Court last July, challenging the constitutionality of Scott, now Junior Minister of Social Protection, and Felix, Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, to sit in the House as un-elected members because they had in fact been elected at the May 11, 2015 general elections.
It is left to be seen whether steps would be taken to remove two other elected APNU+AFC parliamentarians would be asked to vacate their seats to allow Scott and Felix to now properly sit in the House as elected members.
Chang, however, did not issue an order to House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland to prevent Scott and Felix from sitting in the House. “The question of the legal entitlement to sit in the National Assembly is a matter of constitutional legality or illegality – which falls out with the internal operations of the Assembly. Therefore, the court has the jurisdiction to issue a writ of Prohibition or Mandamus to the Speaker to prevent or to put an end to unconstitutionality. However, in the instant case, the court does not foresee that the Honourable Speaker will not act in accordance with the dictates of the law and the Constitution as declared by the Court. The Court therefore does not see the necessity of giving any direction to the Honourable Speaker at this juncture. In deference to the doctrine of judicial restraint the court refrains from issuing a coercive order against the Speaker,” Chang said in his ruling.
Morian’s lawyer, Anil Nandlall said “I feel vindicated” and that he was now looking forward to seeing what would obtain at the next sitting of the National Assembly scheduled for Monday, 22nd February, 2016. “My humble position is if a single thing like that they cannot get right, how will they be able to manage the affairs of this country,” he said.
The High Court found that despite their status of elected members of the National Assembly, Felix and Scott do not hold seats and cannot sit in the National Assembly since their names were not among those extracted from the APNU + AFC list of candidates to hold seats on behalf of the persons named in that successful list.
Chang also declared that despite their appointment by the President to be executive Ministers of the Government, such an executive appointment does not entitle Felix and Scott to hold seats or sit as members of the National Assembly.