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High Court rules no-confidence motion valid; Attorney General applies for stay

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on Thursday ruled that the no-confidence motion was validly passed.

“The ruling of the Speaker that the no-confidence debated in the National Assembly on December 21st, 2018 was carried by a vote of a majority of all of the elected members of the National Assembly is thus lawful and valid, being in accordance with the requirements” of Guyana’s Constitution, she said.

In that regard, she said the President and Cabinet would have to resign and pave the way for elections within 90 days.

The Chief Justice said the absolute majority in Guyana’s 65-member National Assembly is 33 and so the motion was passed by the required number of votes. She said the Vanuatu case is not applicable because that Parliament has an even number of 52 and so an absolute majority would be 50 percent plus 1. She explained that an absolute majority refers to all of the parliamentarians, while a simple majority refers to those present and voting.

In delivering a decision on a separate application by Christopher Ram, she said the president and cabinet should have resigned immediately and remain in office until the next elections.

The 90-day period expires on March 19.

The Guyana Elections Commission will next week present optional time-frames for holding elections.

The constitution provides for the time-frame to be altered by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.

Attorney General Basil Williams applied for a stay of the judgement and a conservatory order for the government to remain in office until the appeals are heard before the Caribbean Court of Justice.

However, Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall, who is representing Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, objected to the application on the grounds that there was no basis for doing so because the Chief Justice merely answered the questions that were put to her.

Responding to the Attorney General’s application, the Chief Justice advised that an appeal be filed. She said there could not be a stay and conservatory order into the answers sought. She said her written judgements would be available on Wednesday to allow the lawyers to file appeals.

The Chief Justice noted that dual citizens elected to sit in the National Assembly is unconstitutional. At the same time, she noted that proceedings of the National Assembly are not invalidated as a result of ineligible persons being parliamentarians. This in view of then government parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud, a Guyanese-Canadian, who voted for the opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion.

On the question of Persaud failing to inform the House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland, of his intention to no longer support the list, she said that did not affect the validity of his status as a parliamentarian.