No-confidence vote certified, will not be reviewed– Clerk of House

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Sherlock Issacs
Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Issacs (CPA UK image)

By: Shemuel Fanfair

Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs has confirmed the validity of the Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion, telling this media group on Thursday that he has certified the vote.

In fact, Isaacs also made it clear that he will not be conducting a review of the decision.

“Not me, period, that is not my duty,” the Clerk outlined. “Once approved, the motion becomes a resolution and I’m required to send the resolution to the mover of the motion among other persons which is what I did,” Isaacs explained.

Later on, the Clerk of the National Assembly issued a letter responding to accusations he said former Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament Charrandas Persaud made against him, saying Isaacs stopped the vote during the division of the no-confidence motion after the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change Member of Parliament said “yes”.

Noting that he has always performed his duties with professionalism and impartiality, Isaacs said he actually paused “due to the uproar” after the now expelled AFC member’s vote.

“Mr Charrandas Persaud may be a lawyer but Parliamentary Practice may evade him. Parliamentary Practice has taught me that when there is disruption in the House during a division, the Clerk must stop taking the division. I therefore had no option but to stop and to ensure that the vote of the member was correctly taken,” Isaacs clarified.

Much of Guyana was left stunned but the dust is now settling over last week’s shock passage of the no-confidence vote against the coalition Administration which came via  Persaud’s vote in favour of the motion.

However, some observers are questioning the motion’s validity even as the vote has already been certified, which cleared the path for elections to be held in three months’ time.

Christopher-Ram-1
File photo: Chartered accountant and attorney-at-law Christopher Ram

But outspoken political commentator Christopher Ram is at a loss as to why last Friday’s vote is being questioned, alluding that 33 out of 65 constitute a majority.

“What is a majority? A majority is the greater number or the greater part so if you’re saying 34 is the majority then what are we saying? that we have 66 members in the National Assembly or do you take away their seats? It defies logic and it defies law,” Ram opined.

However, Attorney Nigel Hughes, a supporter of the incumbent Administration, told state media that half of 65 is 32.5 but when rounded to the nearest whole number would be 33 as there is no half member.

He therefore suggested that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) needed 34 to secure majority. Ram however sees it differently, having expressed his hope that the polls, due by March 19, 2019, will not be stalled.

“Mr Nigel Hughes is reading words in the Constitution that are not there. The Constitution certainly does not say that; it says a majority… I am hoping that [the comments] are for academic excitement and not intended to stall any process or to create and sow confusion – that is my concern,” Ram posited.

In keeping with the Guyana Bar Association’s recent endorsement of the validity of the no-confidence vote, Ram said it must “absolutely” be accepted.

In fact, the Kamal Ramkarran-headed Association said on Wednesday that to suggest that the recently passed no-confidence motion was not validly passed is erroneous, disclosing that “the results and consequences of the motion be accepted and that urgent preparations for elections by the Elections Commission be started,” in keeping with Article 106(6) of the Constitution.

Government is said to be seeking legal advice on the matter but calls to senior Cabinet ministers on Thursday were unanswered. Attempts were made to contact Minister of State Joseph Harmon, Government Chief Whip and Social Protection Minister Amna Ally and Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams.

Nevertheless, on Thursday evening, through the Director of Public Information, Imran Khan, the Government in a release stated that Cabinet met and would have received a report from the Special Legal Sub-Committee on the matter with regard to the no-confidence motion.

“The Chairman of the Sub-Committee, Attorney General Basil Williams SC, updated Cabinet on the matter and presented a number of recommendations. Cabinet discussed various options and took certain decisions on the way forward,” the release added.

In addition, the coalition Government via the release assures its supporters and the public that it will pursue all available options and act in the best interest of all Guyanese.

Persaud who became a parliamentarian following the May 2015 elections said he was dissatisfied with AFC MPs being ‘yes men’. The Berbician had resigned from the party in September 2013 but would later face the media and indicate that his resignation was nonexistent.

The lawyer said his vote was one of conscience since he was tired of towing party lines.

He left the country Saturday morning after saying that was threatened both online and by one of his colleagues in the National Assembly.

A total of 10 MPs had debated the motion and when a vote of division was called, Persaud’s vote changed the numbers to 33 in favour of the motion versus Government’s 32 votes against the motion.

Government was previously confident that it would have won the vote.

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