Govt prepared to challenge no-confidence motion – Min. Ramjattan

– Speaker to decide if election will be held in 90 days after argument is put forward

After careful consideration and revision of Article 106 of the constitution, the govt has decided to challenge the motion

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Coalition Government remains firm on its stance that a total of 34 votes is needed for a no-confidence motion to be passed in the National Assembly. This was reiterated today by Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan during an interview on the National Communications Network (NCN) programme titled ‘Context’.

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.

This comes on the heels of former Government Member of Parliament (MP), Charandass Persaud voting (before being expelled) in favour of the motion brought against the administration by the parliamentary opposition.

However, Minister Ramjattan highlighted that after careful consideration and revision of Article 106 of the constitution, the government has decided to challenge the motion. He noted that there are precedents that were set as it relates to the passage of a no-confidence motion that the government intends to build its argument on, come January 3, 2019.

“In view of what happened on the 21stwhen the Speaker of the House indicated that he is going to adjourn Parliament to deal with the consequences, we have decided that we are going to argue the case that it has not been a threshold figure that was arrived at” Minister Ramjattan stated.

He further explained that “once the threshold figure is arrived at and we are now arguing it is 34 as against 33, then Article 106 is triggered, meaning that the elections must be held within a 90-day period, however, we are saying that will have to now be determined by the Speaker because the internal arrangements of the House is headed by the Speaker and if the Speaker determines there is clearly a mistake in relation to computation of what the threshold level is and that could be corrected… we feel that is the way to go.”

The minister said that he recognises 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 pointed out that based on the context of what took place, the statements were necessary based on what the government had felt at that time.

Nevertheless, he said that after realizing that a mistake was made and that the constitution must not be subverted by a miscalculation, it has to be remedied.

The question of why only now 34 votes are needed to pass a motion, when there is an internal Parliamentary precedent of 33 votes being a majority since 2011, was posed to the minister who explained that the same is not required for a motion of this nature.

“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,” Minister Ramjattan explained.

The minister was making a distinction between to Article 168 (1) and 106 (6) of the Constitution which states “Save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, all questions proposed for decision in the National Assembly shall be determined by a majority of votes of the members present and voting” and “the Cabinet including the President shall resign if the government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence” respectively.

Minister Ramjattan further clarified that half of 65 is 32.5 which is then rounded to 33, making 33 and one half which then makes 34 the majority. The minister said this is why Article 106 (6) is listed in the constitution. “it is important that people just do not follow through as what is regarded as simplicity. The law is the law and that is why the constitution made an exception to Article 168 by having Article 168 drafted the way it is and also now, save and except this Article 106 (6).”

Isaiah Braithwaite.

Image: Jameel Mohamed.

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