Constitution clear on majority – Justice Kennard


Former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Cecil Kennard, has stated that the Constitution of Guyana is clear in what constitutes a majority, pointing out that there was no mention of an “absolute” majority but a majority of “all elected members of the National Assembly”.

“The Constitution is clear; it doesn’t say absolute majority. It speaks about majority of all the members of the National Assembly and so, one have to interpret that and insert it in every context… One has to look at the spirit of Constitution and the Constitution says majority (of all members)”.

He added that the framers of the Constitution and even those on the Constitutional Reform Commission, which included distinguish individuals such as Ralph Ramkarran and Justice Desiree Bernard, would have known that the words “simple” and “absolute” could have been inserted to qualify a majority.

But instead, they stayed away from that and defined that a majority to be of “all the elected members” of the National Assembly, which is 33.
“So you see, one cannot read into the Constitution what is not there; one cannot review the question, when the question (never) arose of whether it’s ‘absolute’ or what not,” Justice Kennard stated.

Last Friday, however, the Court of Appeal by a 2:1 majority ruled that the Opposition’s No-confidence Motion was invalid since it needed an “absolute” majority of 34 votes in the National Assembly, and not a “simple” majority of 33, to successfully pass.

“In our 65-member National Assembly, a majority of all elected members, in accordance with the principle of ‘one over all rivals combined’, is 33 members,” the Chief Justice reasoned.

Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states that “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”

But after the December 31, 2018 passage of the Opposition-sponsored No-confidence Motion, the coalition Government challenged the validity of the motion and after failing to get the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, to reverse it, they approached the High Court.

However, acting Chief Justice Roxane George in January upheld the passage of the motion, ruling that it was validly passed with the 33 majority.

According to Justice Kennard, he is in “total agreement” with the Chief Justice’s interpretation.
“There is no question about that; her decision was a very firm one,” the former Chancellor asserted.

He added that with the Appeal Court having overturned the High Court’s ruling by a majority dissenting decision, it is now for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to have the final say on what the Constitution meant with regards to majority votes on a motion of no confidence.



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