Shadow Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall on Thursday rubbished Attorney General Basil Williams’ announcement that the government would ask the High Court to delay the holding of general elections within 90 days after the House approved an opposition no-confidence motion of 33 to 32.
“The court has no jurisdiction to entertain this matter so as to frustrate the ninety-day period,” he said.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon earlier Thursday formally asked Opposition People’s Progressive Party Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to agree to meeting with President David Granger on Wednesday, January 9 at 11 am at the Ministry of the Presidency. Both men have separately stated that they are keen on deepening political cooperation as Guyana prepares to become a major oil producer late this year or early 2020.
In relation to elections, Nandlall said Granger and Jagdeo would have to be properly satisfied whether the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) would be ready to hold general elections by March 19, 2019 or emphasise the importance of sticking to the 90-day period.
With the country’s two top politicians expected to discuss issues stemming from the no-confidence motion, Nandlall said they also could agree to ask the National Assembly for an extension. “If GECOM communicates to them that they are not ready and both of them are satisfied that GECOM is being bona fide and GECOM is also not part of a political design, but GECOM is faithfully and honestly and with integrity saying that the machinery is not ready then it would be incumbent on the President and the Leader of the Opposition to go to the Parliament and extend that time to meet GECOM’s readiness but that should only be a last resort,” he said.
It is up to at least two-thirds of the National Assembly coming from the PPP and the governing APNU+AFC coalition, he said, to agree to extend the election deadline beyond 90 days.
Nandlall, speaking on the PPP’s Freedom Radio, declared that the Court could not flout the constitution because the vote was properly passed.
With the Guyana High Court, Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice expected to hear the case, Nandlall expects them to do so speedily in light of the 90-day time frame. “If the court decides to hear and determine this matter, the court must do so in due recognition that the government has only ninety days in office and the court must not do anything that will extend that ninety days. The court has no jurisdiction to do so. If the court attempts to do so, then the court would be flouting the constitution, the court would be violating the constitution, the court would be attempting to amend the constitution and no court has any such power,” Nandlall said.
The Attorney General reiterated that government, through its lawyer, Senior Counsel Rex Mc Kay, would challenge the validity of former government parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud’s vote on the basis of his Canadian citizenship and that he had no longer supported the coalition’s list of candidates.
However, Nandlall said Persaud never crossed the floor and moreso the Guyana Constitution does not state what is the prescribed manner in which a parliamentarian indicates that he or she has crossed the floor. In terms of violating the Constitution, he said that was the government’s responsibility. “We never put Charrandass in the Parliament. They put Charrandass in the Parliament. That’s the first thing so they must have known or they should have known that Charrandass was in that Parliament unlawfully. If they didn’t know, they ought to know or else they were tremendously reckless.
They relied on Charrandass’ vote for the last three years. It is Charrandass’ vote that made them pass budgets; that made them pass all the laws that they have passed; that made them do all the things they have done in the Parliament with that same vote,” said Nandlall, adding that the government could not first benefit from the wrong and now challenge it.
Nandlall further argued that Guyana’s constitution was amended to provide for recall of a parliamentarian after the former governing PPP parliamentarian, Khemraj Ramjattan, had refused to resign from the House after voting against the government in 2006.
House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland earlier Thursday refused to review the 33-32 vote, even as he mentioned on a number of occasions that the motion was passed. He declined to reverse his ruling at the time of the motion’s passage on December 21, instead saying that all of the issues surrounding the validity of the vote should be settled by a court of competent jurisdiction.