“How can a Govt fall on a vote of confidence if nobody can cross the floor?” CCJ Judge questions Boston

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Senior Counsel Neil Boston fumbled to argue his case that former parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud had no right to vote against his government when the no-confidence motion was put in Guyana’s National Assembly on December 21, 2018.

Former AFC MP, Charrandas Persaud

Boston is representing coalition party supporter Compton Reid, in the matter of the validity of Persaud’s vote.

He told the Caribbean Court of Justice that a political party functions on the strength of shared beliefs and that any freedom of its members to “vote as they please independently of the political party declared” will embarrass the party’s public image and popularity.

“Loyalty to party is the norm, it is not like in London, this is a different system in Guyana, loyalty to the party is the norm being based on shared belief. To vote against your list is disloyalty, voting with the other side smacks of conspiracy… Mr. Charandass, pursuant to our system, Mr. Charandass has no constituency, he is put there as a front for the APNU/AFC list, that is his function there, and he has to carry out the mandate and the dictates of the list, nobody voted for him,” Boston argued.

However, this argument was questioned by Justice David Hayton.

“Where is the statutory provision that says he must vote according to the list? And that if he doesn’t do so then his vote can’t be recorded? If that was what was intended, it could be simply stated like that. Nowhere can I find any provision like that,” Hayton inquired.

Boston conceded that as much as there is no such provision it is an obligation of the Court, having construed the purpose and intention of that section of the Constitution, is to prevent a member from voting against his list, then the Court is duty bound to give effect to that.
Boston further confirmed to the Court that there is no section in the Statutes which say that if you vote against your party from which your name has been extracted, your vote is not valid.

“It does not say so. It is the Court, has to construe article 156 (3) and come to the conclusion if this is the spirit and intention of article 156(3) that you can’t vote against your list without sending a letter to the list representative or the speaker of the national assembly then the Court is duty bound to give effect to that spirit of the Constitution,” he stated.

But Boston was asked by the Court: “How do you reconcile your position with the possibility under 106 (6) that the cabinet could fall because the government is defeated in a vote of confidence in the Parliament?”

In response, he said it would have to be decided by the National Assembly at “some future date” and that the legislators will have to “deal with this conflict.”

However, this did not sit well with CCJ Justice Winston Anderson.

“We are presented with it now and we have to interpret the Constitution now and it seems to me that 106 (6) is suggesting that the government could fall on a vote of confidence. Would you accept that?…So how can a government fall on a vote of confidence if nobody can cross the floor? If nobody can vote against their list? How is it possible to give effect to 106 (6)?”

Boston, in answering this, stated that the relevant authorities “probably did not review that section in the way it ought to be reviewed and they will have to go back to the National Assembly to deal with that issue.”

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