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Attorney General asks High Court to calculate “absolute majority” in no-confidence vote; Jagdeo applies to join validity of Charrandas Persaud vote

Attorney General Basil Williams

Attorney General Basil Williams on Monday asked the High Court to find that 34 instead of 33 votes are required to pass a no-confidence motion even as Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has separately asked the Court to join proceedings challenging the validity of former government parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud’s vote because he is a Canadian.

With the respondents being House Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland and the Opposition Leader, the Attorney General asked the High Court to determine whether the Speaker’s ruling on the no-confidence motion on December 21st, 2018 was validly passed by 33 to 32 by the required majority of all of the elected members of the National Assembly and “whether the requisite majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly ought properly to be 34 votes.”

“The National Assembly of Guyana comprises 65 members and that mathematically, half of all the elected members of the current National Assembly would result in a fraction of 32.5. In the instant case as half of 65 results in the fraction of 32.5, that figure should then be rounded to the next whole number being 33 which would now represent half of the elected members, the majority thereby being a number greater than half means that ‘1’ ought to have been added to the whole number ‘33’ to calculate an absolute majority of 34,” the Attorney General said.

Williams also wants the High Court to determine whether the President and the ministers of government could remain in office as a majority vote was not carried, and whether the Court could scrap the Speaker’s ruling that the motion was carried, and could order a stay on the enforcement of the Resolution declared by the Clerk of the National Assembly to have been passed by the House.

Against the background of a constitutional provision that the President and the ministers of government could remain in office as a majority vote, the Attorney General also wants the court to find whether it can grant an order for the President and the government to remain in office pending the outcome of the court case.

Williams is also relying on remarks by the House Speaker on January 3rd, 2019 to the National Assembly that the issues surrounding the no-confidence vote should be settled by a Court. “I must tell you Honourable members that the issues which we now face calls us to look outside of the Parliament to find answers… a full, final and complete settlement of these issues by a Court of competent jurisdiction will place beyond doubt any questions which may exist and serve to give guidance to the Speaker and the National Assembly,” Scotland was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Jagdeo has applied to the High Court to be a party to the proceedings filed by private citizen Compton Reid, challenging the validity of Charrandas Persaud’s vote because he is a Canadian citizen and should not have been even elected to sit in the House and, moreover, vote.

The battery of lawyers, led by Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall, on Monday filed an application for Jagdeo to be joined on the matter, because “the main thrust of the proceedings filed” by Reid is to invalidate the no-confidence motion and to ultimately prevent its constitutional consequences” – resignation of the President and Cabinet, calling of general elections in 90 days or having the House extend that period by a two-thirds majority.

Referring  to the Attorney General’s remarks that the government had been in the process of filing legal proceedings to challenge the validity of the votes in respect of the no-confidence motion, Jagdeo said because of the parties to those proceedings and the Attorneys-at-Law on record for Reid, he “genuinely fears that there is manifest connivance and collusion in the institution of these proceedings and the Attorney-General would be ready and willing to consent to judgment in a deliberate conspiracy to pervert these legal proceedings in order to nullify the aforesaid No Confidence Motion and its constitutional consequence.”

“It is imperative that the Applicant be permitted to join these proceedings not only to protect its integrity but in order to protect and preserve the will of a majority of the elected members who voted in favour of the said No Confidence Motion and also to protect and preserve the sanctity of proceedings in the National Assembly as well as the Constitution of Guyana,” the court papers state.

Jagdeo’s lawyers said the matter raises not only issues of paramount constitutional and parliamentary significance but also fundamental political issues which may have far reaching implications for national democracy, peace, order and good governance in Guyana.