No-confidence appeal – Swift resolution would be great – US Ambassador

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…US Govt to continue to respect democratic process here

While recognising that political leaders in Guyana have utilised democratic processes available in settling the No-confidence Motion case, United States Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch believes the faster this matter is resolved, the better it would be for the country.

“I think the faster there is a resolution, I think the better. I think that’s probably best for everyone. The democratic process is being followed and the democratic institutions are being used and a swift resolution would be great. But I understand also that the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice) has given a date of May 10, so we should hear more then,” the US diplomat said in an interview with journalists from local newspapers in Guyana on Monday at the Embassy’s Young and Duke Streets, Georgetown office.

Without speculating on the outcome of the proceedings currently before the Trinidad-based regional court, Ambassador Lynch stressed that her country is emphatically firm in its respect for the democratic institutions and democratic processes being undertaken in Guyana, as well as the commitment of local political leaders to ensure peace and stability in the country.

United States Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch answers a question asked by Guyana Times senior journalist, Vahnu Manikchand (right) during the interview on Monday at the US Embassy’s Young and Duke Streets, Georgetown office (Dexter Ceres photo)

“I have been heartened in my short amount of time here that all the political leaders – in Government, the Opposition, other political parties – indicated that they will respect this ruling and there will be a peaceful reaction to it. So I am hopeful that would happen and I would encourage all political parties and citizens to react in a peaceful way even if they disagree with the outcome,” she contended.

Following the December 21, 2018 passage of the Opposition-sponsored No-confidence Motion in the National Assembly, Government had subsequently asked the House to reverse the passage, but its Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, had declined the request and redirected it to the courts. As such, Government moved to the High Court to challenge the validity of the motion, saying a 34 majority is needed for it to be successfully passed.

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George, in January, had upheld the passage of the No-confidence Motion, ruling that in Guyana’s 65-member National Assembly, a majority is 33. The High Court ruling, however, was appealed by Attorney General Basil Williams.

While Justice Rishi Persaud last month dismissed the appeal and conferred with the ruling of the High Court, his colleague appellate judges allowed the state’s appeal.

Both Justices Yonette Cummings-Edwards, acting Chancellor, and Dawn Gregory opined that while 33 is the majority of the 65- member National Assembly, the successful passage of a no- confidence motion requires an “absolute majority” of 34, and not the “simple” majority of 33 that has been used to pass ordinary business in the House.

According to the two appellate Judges in their March 22 decision, half of the National Assembly would be 32.5 and since there is no half vote then that would be rounded up to 33, which is a “simple” majority of the House, and so in order to make it “absolute”, one more has to be added to bring about a 34 majority.

Nevertheless, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, through his battery of lawyers, on March 26, appealed the Appeal Court’s majority ruling.

Jagdeo, in his application, is seeking orders setting aside or reversing the majority judgement of the Court of Appeal of Guyana and resorting to the decision of the acting Chief Justice Roxane George made on January 31, 2019; a declaration that the resolution of the National Assembly is valid; and a declaration that the No-confidence Motion moved by Jagdeo was validly passed on December 21, 2018.

The Opposition Leader, through his attorneys, is also seeking a declaration that puts to rest that 33 votes/members constitute a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly within the meaning of Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana.

The application is also seeking costs. In a case management hearing subsequently last month, the CCJ set May 10 at 09:00h for the hearing of the cases, with April 8 being given as the deadline for filing cross appeals. In addition, April 17 was given for written submissions and the April 23 to reply. However, a pre-trial hearing will be heard on April 24, where issues concerning the order and length of oral submissions will be addressed.

Apart from Jagdeo, there were two other sets of appeals filed. In total, the cases before the regional court are: Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo v the Attorney General of Guyana, Dr Barton Scotland and Joseph Harmon; Christopher Ram v the Attorney General of Guyana, the Leader of the Opposition and Joseph Harmon; and Charrandas Persaud v Compton Herbert Reid, Dr Barton Scotland, Bharrat Jagdeo and Joseph Harmon – which deals with Persaud’s, a former parliamentarian on the Government’s side, eligibility to vote in the House and the validity of his December 21, 2019, vote in favour of the Opposition’s motion of no-confidence against the coalition Government.

In the case of Ram v the Attorney General, the political activist had petitioned the High Court to have Government resign and President David Granger call elections within 90 days as stipulated by Articles 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution.

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