The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has postponed its ruling on the final orders related to its decision to uphold the passage of a no-confidence motion by Guyana’s National Assembly in December, last year.
Lawyers representing Guyana’s Government and Opposition were expected to present to their views on what should transpire based on last week’s judgement at the CCJ’s headquarters at Henry Street in Port-of-Spain, on Monday afternoon.
However, when the case was called by CCJ President Adrian Saunders and his colleagues, they indicated that the parties did not meet and had not come to a consensus on when a general election should be called.
While Saunders expressed disappointment over the lack of progress, he expressed hope that the issue could be resolved before he and his colleagues seek to resolve the issue, based on the parties’ written submission, on July 12.
“I am hopeful that if and when the parties meet, they can form some consensus on the way forward,” Saunders said.
Presenting submissions on behalf of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Senior Counsel Stanley Marcus claimed that his clients would only be able to facilitate an election after December 25 as it was currently in the process of compiling a new list of voters.
Lawyers representing Guyana’s Attorney General Basil Williams submitted that the court should not infringe on the country’s Constitution by granting an order compelling President David Granger to dissolve Parliament and set a date for an election. They submitted that the election should only be called based on GECOM’s readiness to facilitate it.
Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, who is representing the country’s Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, submitted that the part of the Constitution which requires an election within three months of a successful no-confidence vote should be strictly followed. Granger has reached out to Jagdeo for talks but no date has yet been fixed.
Mendes also suggested that GECOM was entitled to use the most recent list of voters, prepared in October, last year, and make amendments to it in order to facilitate the poll.
In its judgement, the CCJ approved the appeal, in which Jagdeo, ousted government member Charrandas Persaud and social activist Christopher Ram challenged the decision of Guyana’s Court of Appeal to strike down the controversial motion, which was passed by a slim 33 to 32 majority.
The judges suggested that the Appeal Court got it wrong when it stated that the formula for calculating the majority for the motion was dividing the number of assembly members by two, rounding off and adding one.
They stated a simple majority, as was taken last year, was all that was required as the assembly has an odd number of members.
The CCJ further ruled that Article 156 of Guyana’s Constitution, which requires assembly members to indicate if they wish to vote against their party and be removed a result, was not applicable in a no-confidence vote.
The court stated that assembly members were allowed to vote against their party even if it meant them being removed afterwards.
The court also rejected arguments from Williams and political activist Compton Reid over whether Persaud’s vote should also be invalidated as he had dual citizenship with Canada.
The judges stated that Persaud’s position in the assembly could have only been challenged in an election petition brought within 28 days of when he was elected in 2015.
The CCJ was also asked to consider a separate appeal from Opposition MP Mustapha Zulfikar, who challenged Granger’s appointment of retired Judge James Patterson as chairman of the GECOM.
The court ruled that Granger failed to give sufficient and compelling reasons for rejecting 18 candidates put forward by Jagdeo, before he went ahead to appoint Patterson in October 2017.
“The giving of reasons by the President will ensure transparency and accountability to the people, avoid unilateralism and arbitrariness, and engender public trust and confidence in the Elections Commission,” the judges said.