GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday December 31, 2018 – Government says its awaiting the ruling of Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, on the consequences of the no-confidence motion against the administration earlier this month.
That ruling is expected on Thursday, and Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams said yesterday that the Speaker finds that an error has been made, he has the power to revisit any decision he sees fit.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is adamant that the motion which he moved was lawfully passed and, under the Constitution, the government should resign and elections called within 90 days of the passing of the motion. On December 21, 33 MPs in the 65-seat National Assembly, including government backbencher Charandass Persaud, voted in favour of the motion.
But Williams said the government’s position has always been that the motion was not validly carried since the opposition needed 34 instead of 33 votes for an absolute majority.
“Parliament is actually supreme in its own arena. So, we are responsible for our internal rules and procedures. There are rules that can be changed by amending certain standing orders and once the vote is carried, then that is it,” he said yesterday when he appeared on the National Communications Network (NCN) live televised programme “Context” where he addressed the government’s current position on the issue.
According to the Attorney General, the government has also decided on presenting the House Speaker with a legal memorandum, where he will be provided with all available options regarding the no-confidence motion. He said the Speaker can also invite a similar document from the parliamentary opposition, after which he can make his ruling.
Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, also speaking on the NCN programme, said there are precedents the government intends to build its argument on, in challenging the motion.
He acknowledged that immediately after the motion was passed there were statements by President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo accepting the outcome of the motion. However, he said that was based on what the government felt at that time, and now that it believes a mistake was made, the situation must be remedied.
Ramjattan also sought to explain why the government believes a majority of 34 was needed to pass the motion when 33 has been accepted as a majority since 2011.
“There is a distinction because there is an article in our Constitution that says that bills and motions can be passed save and except otherwise provided, by a simple majority of those present and voting….A confidence or no-confidence motion is a different motion above all else as the Constitution made mention,” he said.
Minister Ramjattan further contended that since half of 65 is 32.5 which is then rounded to 33, then 33 and one half is a majority and that has to be rounded up to 34.
“It is important that people just do not follow through as what is regarded as simplicity. The law is the law,” he said.
Meantime, Williams also put to rest calls in some quarters for the administration to resign.
“Even if you say it [no-confidence motion] was validly passed under Article 106 (6) [of the Constitution], Article 106 (7) says, notwithstanding such defeat, the government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months,” the Attorney General said.