The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has slammed Government for its attempt to disregard the Constitution of Guyana. This move come as documents emerged on Saturday showing that Government plans to approach Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland to ask him to reverse the no-confidence vote, which brought them down on December 21, 2018.
According to the document, which was written in the format of a legal opinion with Attorney General Basil Williams’ name attached to it, Government wants the Speaker to use his powers to reverse the vote; arguing, among other things, that 34 out of 65 constitutes a majority in Guyana’s National Assembly.
The opinion argues that 50 per cent of the 65 votes in the National Assembly constitutes 32.5, which has to then be rounded up to 33, with an extra vote added to it making it 34. According to the opinion provided by the Government, passing a no-confidence motion is different from passing legislation. This argument which Williams is now using in his legal opinion was first peddled by Attorney Nigel Hughes; the husband of Government Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes.
The opinion goes on to claim that since former Alliance For Change (AFC) parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud is a Canadian citizen and had allegedly travelled on his Canadian passport, he forfeited his vote.
In the opinion, Government admits that Persaud’s private travelling records were accessed from Guyana’s Immigration Department and states that a copy will be provided to the Speaker.
As stated in the document, the Government also intends to challenge: Whether the Speaker can reverse the ruling that the No-confidence Motion was carried? What is the effect of the sub judice rule should the Speaker’s ruling be legally challenged in the courts” and “Whether the Speaker’s ruling on the vote can be quashed by the courts?”
However, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Saturday denouncing the document and attempts by the Government “to subvert and trample upon our Constitution, the integrity of the National Assembly and indeed, the rule of law.”
The Opposition Leader made it clear that the Speaker’s role has come to an end, having previously ruled that the No-confidence Motion was carried. In addition, it was noted that Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Issacs issued a resolution pursuant to the motion.
“The Speaker has no further role to play in relation to the No-confidence Motion. Certainly, he has no review powers whatsoever over the already completed process. This ‘legal memorandum’ is the latest act of desperation of a power drunk group who wish to cling to power at all cost,” Jagdeo pointed out.
Jagdeo noted that both President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had previously accepted the results of the No-confidence Motion and had pledged to follow the Constitution and the steps it outlines.
“The ‘legal memorandum’ constitutes an amalgam of misconceived and ill-conceived legal arguments and the citation of a host of case law authorities that are absolutely irrelevant to the propositions which they purport to support.”
“In the circumstances, we reject this ‘legal memorandum’ as vexatious, frivolous and wholly irrelevant. The Speaker is urged to do likewise,” Jagdeo stated.
On December 21, 2018, the No-confidence Motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – against the Government succeeded when Charrandas Persaud, a former AFC Member of Parliament, broke rank and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
With the Government’s defeat, the next steps are spelt out in the Constitution of Guyana. Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “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.”
Meanwhile, clause 7 goes on to state that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
In light of the constitutional provisions, Jagdeo renewed his calls on the Government for them to immediately begin the preparations for holding General and Regional Elections in accordance with Article 106 of the Constitution.