As oral submissions into the no-confidence resolution cases continued before acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George at the High Court on Friday, Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall who appeared on behalf of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo argued that the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application filed by Attorney General Basil Williams to “strike out” the vote on the no-confidence motion.
During his argument, Nandlall stated that 33 votes were always calculated as a majority and were also valid as it was used to carry motions in the past. As such he gave the court an example of when such an instance occurred.
“When the Government didn’t want Member of Parliament, the Honorable Clement Rohee to deliberate during the 10th sitting of the Assembly, they voted and that same 33 votes majority was able stopped him. So how is it difficult now?” he asked.
According to Nandlall, the Blacks’ Law Dictionary states “A majority always refers to more than half of some defined or assumed set. In parliamentary law, that set may be all of the members or some subset, such as all members present or all members voting on a particular question.”
The Oxford Dictionary defines a majority as “the state or fact of being greater, the number by which in voting, the votes cast on one side exceeds those cast on other.”
Moreover, the Webster Dictionary states that a majority is “the quality or state of being greater: a number greater than half of a total: the excess of such a greater number over the remainder of the total.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General Basil Williams, through his Attorney Maxwell Edwards, argued on several grounds stating that in order for the motion to be carried, the Opposition would need “half plus one”, that is, 34 votes.
According to him, the provision in the Constitution which provides for the no-confidence vote is unacceptable to the earlier constitutional provision, as stated in Article 70 (3) which guarantees an elected Government a five-year term.
In this submission, Williams claimed that 33 is not a majority of 65. As such, the Attorney General maintained that in order for a decision to be passed in the National Assembly under section 168 (1), where all 65 members are present and voting, the votes of 34 members must be obtained.
Even though less than 90 days remain in which elections must be held, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has made no significant moves towards preparing for holding elections.
Chief Justice George has set January 31, 2019, as the date for the decision in these matters.