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Harmon appeals Chief Justice’s decision on no-confidence motion

Minister of State Joseph Harmon.

General Secretary of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Joseph Harmon on Wednesday filed two appeals challenging Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire’s decisions that the no-confidence motion was validly passed by the National Assembly last December.

In the first case, Harmon enjoined private citizen Compton Reid against House Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland, then government parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud who voted for the no-confidence motion, and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo in asking the Court of Appeal to strike down the Chief Justice’s decision.

Through his lawyers, Rosydale Forde and Olayne Joseph, the APNU General Secretary and Reid said they were “dissatisfied with the whole decision” delivered by the Chief Justice on January 31, 2019, saying that she erred in law when she held that the no-confidence motion was a vote of confidence within the meaning of Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana.

Chief Justice George-Wiltshire, according to Harmon and Reid, erred in law when she failed to construe the phrase “vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly…” in Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana, and when she also found that the no-confidence motion was lawfully passed by “a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly” in accordance with Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana.

Further, the appellants claimed that the Chief Justice erred in law when she held that Persaud validly and lawfully voted in favour of the motion despite having found that he was not capable of being lawfully nominated for election to the National Assembly because of his Canadian citizenship.

Further, Harmon and Reid want the Court of Appeal to find that George-Wiltshire erred in law when she did not find that the motion and Resolution 101 were unconstitutional and constituted an unlawful and unconstitutional act by the National Assembly. They also cited as a ground for appeal that the Chief Justice also erred by not finding that the Constitution of Guyana conferred on the Court the Jurisdiction to ensure that votes by members of the National Assembly on a Motion of No Confidence are in fact and law made by validly elected members of the National Assembly.

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire

Other grounds cited by the appellants as errors in law are that the High Court had no jurisdiction to entertain such issues raised on the Fixed Date Application on an Election Petition, and so the Chief Justice consequently refused to grant certain Declarations sought in the Fixed Date Application. They claimed that she erroneously relied on cases in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada as they were decided in the context of Constitutions materially different to the Constitution of Guyana.

The Learned Judge erred in law when she, according to Harmon, failed to appreciate the significance of the fact that at the date of the institution of the Fixed Date Application, the Second Named Respondent, Persaud, was not a sitting member of the National Assembly. The appellants added that the Chief Justice erred in law when she did not find that the Nomination and purported election of the Second Named Respondent, Persaud, to the National Assembly was void.

Harmon and Reid are also taking issue with the fact that the Chief Justice erred in law when she construed the Fixed Date Application, as filed as a challenge to the election of Persaud as opposed to a legitimate constitutional challenge to the casting of a vote by the recalled parliamentarian on the No Confidence Motion when disqualified from the National Assembly.

Other grounds for their appeal are that the Chief Justice erred in law when she failed to have regard to the constitutional provisions dealing with disqualifying acts, the purpose and intent of which were to ensure and prevent persons with foreign loyalties and obligations from ever being or becoming members of the National Assembly, preventing an unqualified person being nominated and standing as a candidate for election to the National Assembly from becoming a member of the National Assembly, and vacating the seat of an unqualified person even if purportedly elected to the National Assembly pursuant to Section 98 of the Representation of the People Act.

She, Harmon said, also erred in law when she failed to find that Article 165 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana was in the nature of Ouster Clause which permitted enquiry by the Court to determine whether any unconstitutional act existed in the proceedings of the National Assembly and to save only lawful acts and proceedings of the National Assembly from invalidation.

Harmon also claimed that the Learned Judge erred in law when she misconstrued the provisions of Article 163 (1) of the Constitution  of Guyana to mean that all issues relating to the qualification of a person to be elected to the National Assembly as well as the tenure of seats of members of the National Assembly had to be determined pursuant to Article 163 of the Constitution of Guyana.

Grounds in the second case – Harmon and the Attorney General vs the House Speaker and the Opposition Leader – includes a claim that the Chief Justice erred in law when she found that the No Confidence Motion was lawfully
passed by a majority of 33:32 votes in accordance with Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana.

Attorney General Basil Williams has already filed an appeal on a number of preliminary grounds including one that challenges the accuracy of the Chief Justice’s decision that states that the no-confidence motion was validly passed by an absolute majority of 33 to 32 of the 65 votes in the National Assembly.