GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday March 27, 2019 – The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has submitted an appeal with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), seeking to get it to reverse a Court of Appeal decision that the no-confidence motion passed against the government last December was not valid.
The PPP’s lawyers – Douglas Mendes, Devesh Maharaj, Anil Nandlall, Kandace Bharath, and CV Satram – yesterday filed the application for special leave to appeal, even as the government went back to business as usual, with the convening of the first Cabinet meeting since the no-confidence motion filed by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo was passed 33-32 in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018.
They are seeking an order to treat the hearing of the application as urgent and a further order for an expedited hearing of the application. They also want the CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, to issue an order that the hearing of the application for special leave to appeal be treated as the hearing of the actual appeal.
By a 2-1 majority ruling last Friday, Guyana’s Court of Appeal ruled that 34 votes were needed for the no-confidence motion to succeed. The government had turned to that court after Acting Chief Justice Roxane George ruled in the High Court, on January 31, that the motion was valid and that regional and general elections should be held, in keeping with the Constitution, within 90 days of the vote in which then government backbencher Charrandass Persaud sided with the opposition.
The Court of Appeal said that 34 represents an absolute majority in the 65-seat National Assembly which means that contrary to the ruling of Speaker of the House, Dr Barton Scotland and the Acting Chief Justice, the no-confidence motion was not properly carried – a position which the David Granger administration, which was elected for a five-year term on May 11, 2015, had taken.
But in the appeal filed before the CCJ, the opposition is seeking a declaration that 33 votes/members constitute a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly within the meaning of Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana.
In addition to filing the appeal, the PPP previously said it would boycott any sitting of the National Assembly while the appeal is pending at the CCJ.
In a video statement posted after the Court of Appeal’s ruling last week, Jagdeo said “no strange mathematics can change the Constitution.
Meantime, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams said he is sure the government will be victorious at the CCJ.
“As a government, we have confirmed with the constitution, we have confirmed with the rule of law and so we are confident in going forward with the CCJ, that the ruling of the Court of Appeal would be upheld,” he stated.
He said that the decision by the Court of Appeal came as no surprise to the government, and he pointed out that a precedent has been set in determining what constitutes a majority for a vote of no-confidence in the Caribbean.