No-confidence vote valid, Constitution does not support 34 majority argument, says longest serving National Assembly Clerk

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Longest serving Clerk of the National Assembly, Frank Narain, has rubbished the notion being peddled by Government representatives that 34 votes was required to determine majority for the passage of the no-confidence motion.

Former Clerk of the National Assembly, Frank Narain

Narain in an interview with this publication on Friday said this notion is not supported anywhere in the Constitution of Guyana.

Narain noted that in Guyana’s circumstance, there is nothing in the Constitution supporting arguments that out of 65 Members of Parliament, 34 is a majority. Narain added that it comes down to basic Mathematics.

“I’m a simple man. And in my simplicity, I know that one more than half of the number is a majority. So, in all my life I accepted that in our present case of 65, 33 is a majority. The Constitution uses the word majority, only.”

“It doesn’t describe that majority by any other word. It just says a majority of all the elected members. A majority is a simple majority… this is a simple matter in (any) layman opinion,” Narain added.

Narain, who served as Clerk of the National Assembly from the 1960s until his retirement in 2002, questioned whether proponents of this alternate mathematical formula were just trying to stir up trouble.

Since the passage of the motion on December 21, 2018, some observers have sought to question 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.

The original proponent of the 34-vote argument is Attorney Nigel Hughes, a former Alliance For Change (AFC) member who told State media that half of 65 is 32.5 but when rounded to the nearest whole number this would be 33 as there is no half member.

He had therefore suggested that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) needed 34 to secure majority. This argument has however been met with derision from several sections of society and legal experts.

Giving his take on the matter, outspoken political commentator and lawyer Christopher Ram was at a loss as to why last Friday’s vote is being questioned, alluding that 33 out of 65 constitutes 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 you 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 had opined.

Ram had also expressed his hope that the polls, due by March 19, 2019, would 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 had 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.

The Association, headed by Attorney Kamal Ramkarran had said on Wednesday that to suggest that the recently passed No-confidence Motion was not validly passed is erroneous.

The Bar Association had urged 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.

Even the current Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Issacs, has said that he would not be conducting a review of the vote.

The Clerk had, in fact, issued a certificate validating the successful passage of the motion.

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