No-confidence cases: Submissions filed in the High Court

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The various parties in the legal challenges relating to the no-confidence vote have filed and sent out their submissions to the High Court.

In one, Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, through his legal representatives, is arguing that the court processes are being abused to overturn that fateful vote.

This is according to the submission made on Jagdeo’s behalf in the Compton Reid vs Speaker of the National Assembly; Charrandas Persaud; the Attorney General; Jagdeo and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) General Secretary Joseph Harmon.

Asking the court to strike out Reid’s application, Jagdeo’s legal team (led by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall) noted that “it does not disclose any reasonable ground for bringing the claim; it is an abuse of the process of the Court and it is scandalous, frivolous and vexatious.”

The submission goes on to argue that Reid’s application “flies in the face of the Constitution”, when one stops to consider the National Assembly (Validity of Elections) Act Chapter 1:04.

Meanwhile, a second submission was made on Jagdeo’s behalf by Nandlall and two other members of his legal team – attorneys-at-law Manoj Narayan and Rajendra Jaigobin – in the case of AG vs Speaker and Jagdeo.

In this submission, the team argues that the AG’s application is “incurably bad in law” and should be dismissed. According to the team, the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application by way of a “case stated”, based on the Civil Procedures Rules (CPR).

The team, nevertheless, addressed the substantive issues raised by the AG’s application, such as his claim that 33 is not a majority of 65. Here the team cited Blacks’ Law Dictionary, the Oxford Dictionary and the Webster’s third new International Dictionary, in order to define a majority.

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.”

Meanwhile, the Webster Dictionary states that a majority is “the quality or state of being greater: number greater than half of a total: the excess of such a greater number over the remainder of the total.”

The team went on to assert that by the AG’s definition, the meaning of what a majority has a ripple effect. The team gave as an example the Court of Appeal and its three Judges and the Public Service Commission.

“The Attorney General’s approach will also lead to unusual and unworkable results under the Constitution. Thus for any question proposed for decision to be passed in the National Assembly under section 168(1)1, where all 65 members are present and voting, the votes of 34 members must be obtained.”

“Where a Government is formed on the basis of the support of only 33 of the 65 elected members, it means that in order to implement any legislative measure, it must obtain the vote of at least one opposition member,” the team stated.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Basil Williams, through his legal representative, has submitted a response contesting the arguments put forward by activist Christopher Ram, who had approached the court seeking to have the Government resign as per the Constitution.

In the AG’s response, filed by Attorney Maxwell Edwards, he argues a number of things. According to the AG, resignation depends on Parliament being dissolved before General and Regional Elections.

In this instance, the AG cited Article 106 (7) of the Constitution of Guyana to support his arguments. He then went on to reject calls for Government to be in a caretaker mode, contending that the vote was not a valid one.

On the matter of former AFC MP Charrandas Persaud’s dual citizenship, the AG then pointed to Article 165 (2) of the Constitution. The AG noted the danger to Guyana’s democracy to have MP’s who are disqualified from voting due to dual citizenship, vote in the National Assembly.

When the cases were first heard in her chambers, Chief Justice (acting) Roxanne George had given the sides a date of January 18 to exchange submissions, January 21 for rebuttal submissions and in the case of Christopher Ram versus the Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly, submissions will be heard today.

Oral submissions for Compton Reid versus the Attorney General, former MP Charrandas Persaud and the Speaker of the National Assembly will be heard on January 24. And finally, in the case of the Attorney General versus the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Opposition Leader, oral submissions will be done on January 25. (Jarryl Bryan)

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