Guyana Politics: Govt. threatens court action if Speaker’s ruling unfavourable

Passage of no confidence motion… Govt. threatens court action if Speaker’s ruling unfavourable

Basil Williams

Jan 01, 2019- Kaieteur News

The government has assembled a group of legal advisors in preparation to fight the results of the no confidence motion all the way to Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams yesterday said Government has sent a legal memorandum to House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland.

The brief maps Government’s arguments for consideration on the passage of the motion which was passed based on a 33-32 vote count in the 65-member National Assembly on December 21.    

The House is expected to meet on Thursday at which time the Speaker is expected to pronounce on the Government’s submissions. Williams stated that should the Speaker return an unfavourable response, the Government will move to the court.

“The Judiciary which is one of the three arms of the State will intervene where the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, is abridged. Therefore, the Court can nullify the Speaker’s decision if it is found to be unconstitutional,” Williams told reporters.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams

Williams disclosed that the AG chambers is being supported by the incoming Attorney General of Belize; Queens Counsel Hal Gallop and Ralph Thorne of Barbados which assisted in Government’s triumph of the infamous third term challenge at the CCJ and prominent local attorneys, Stephen Fraser, and Senior Council, Rex McKay.

Williams said that the government is concerned with the determination on 33 votes in favour of the motion of no-confidence amounted to a majority of all elected members in accordance with Article 106 (6) of the Constitution.

“This Government was not defeated by a majority as required under Article 106(6) of the Constitution. In order for the Government to be defeated on a vote of confidence, 34 or more votes of all the elected members in favour of the motion were required instead of 33,” Williams outlined.
He said that the Government’s view is grounded in established Parliamentary precedent and practice and case law in the Commonwealth.

Williams cited the Merriam Webster Dictionary (1828), where the “majority rule” is defined as: “A political principle providing that a majority usually constituted by fifty percent plus one of an organized group will have the power to make decisions binding upon the whole.”
Since the National Assembly comprises 65 members, the Government is contending that mathematically, half of all the elected members would result in a fraction of 32.5.
According to the AG, there are judicial authorities to show that where a number results in a fraction it is rounded up.

“In the instant case as half of 65 results in the fraction of 32.5, this figure should then be rounded to the next whole number being 33 which would now represent half of the elected members. In accordance with the practical application of the meaning of majority ‘1’ must now be added to ‘33’ to derive at a majority of 34 votes,” Williams stated.

He said the Constitutional requirement for voting on a motion of no confidence is distinct from voting on the passage of legislation and ordinary motions in Parliament.

“The framers of the Constitution by requiring the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly have set the requirement as an absolute majority,” Williams contends.
He stated that the passage of legislation and motions outside of Article 106 (6) procedurally only requires a vote of those members present and voting which is a simple majority.

But why did the Government accept the outcome of the vote on the day the motion was passed and debated? Williams said he always knew that the 34 votes were required, but he was being tactical in his approach and did not want to activate ‘other moles’.

The motion which was tabled by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, received the surprise ‘yes’ vote from Government MP, Charrandass Persaud which the Government termed ‘an act of betrayal’.

Former speaker, Ralph Ramkarran, told Kaieteur News that there are no available options for the Speaker to reverse the decision of the House, but Williams said the Speaker can reconsider the resolution and reverse any decision he may have made and is not barred by the sub judice rule.
According to Williams, this assertion is grounded in Parliamentary practice and precedent.

“The Speaker of the National Assembly is in duty bound to observe the Constitution as the supreme law of Guyana, therefore, if there is a ruling of the Speaker which is unconstitutional that error can be revisited and corrected by the Speaker,” Williams said.

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Comments

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On January 1, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    “Therefore, the Court can nullify the Speaker’s decision if it is found to be unconstitutional…”
    ~ Clinging to a straw?

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 1, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    If the incumbent is going to use a technicality to persuade the people to re-elect them as opposed to ‘Here is what we intend to do to make things better for you!’

    – Not Good!

    The former comes across as arrogant – A Right – Entitlement.

    The latter comes across more like willing to serve the people.

    Let the Speaker’s decision stand – Amend the Constitution later ….

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