Govt stands – 34 votes needed to pass no-confidence motion

─ using 33 votes was “flawed and untenable and is not the absolute majority”

─ “the absolute majority in a 65 seat would lead to 34 votes. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed”

─ Coalition Govt fully legal, lawful and constitutionally remains in office without any hindrance or questions

DPI, Guyana, Friday, March 22, 2019

The APNU+AFC Government stands as the Court of Appeal today ruled that the no-confidence motion brought against the government on December 21, 2018, in the National Assembly was not validly passed. Several challenges were brought before the Court of Appeal following the acting Chief Justice’s decision in the High Court regarding the validity of the vote and the passage of the motion. Acting Chief Justice, Roxane George had ruled on January 31 that the motion was validly passed.

However, today, the Court of Appeal ruled 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 brought by the opposition People’s Progressive Party was not properly carried. This ruling was made by Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Dawn Gregory.

According to Justice Gregory, 34 votes were required after rounding up 32.5 to 33 and adding another vote to acquire an absolute majority of 34. She said using 33 votes was ‘flawed and untenable and is not the absolute majority’.

Meanwhile, the acting Chancellor, in her ruling, said the acting Chief Justice’s calculation of 33 votes was for a ‘simple majority’.

Quoting several authorities and case precedents, the acting Chancellor said, “applying the principles discussed… I am of the view that the majority, as found by the learned Chief Justice, applies to the case of a simple majority but in relation to the case of an absolute majority, the figure to be arrived at is that of 34 votes. I am of the view too that, applying a purposive approach and the words of the statute being read in their entire context the grammatical and ordinary meaning and the scheme of the act, the object of the act and the intention of the parliament that is consistent with the provisions of article 106(6)… the absolute majority in a 65 seat would lead to 34 votes. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed.”

However, Justice of Appeal, Rishi Persaud, who also gave his interpretation of the matter in the Appeal Court, agreed with the acting Chief Justice’s ruling that the no-confidence motion was validly passed by 33 to 32 votes.

Today’s ruling effectively means that the Coalition Government is fully legal, lawful and constitutionally remains in office without any hindrance or questions. Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Basil Williams SC., expressed satisfaction at the findings of the Appellate Tribunal.

“I’m saying that we are grateful because a lot of effort and a lot of work has been put into this as you know, and we’ve really stretched the extremities of the law in this area and we are happy with the result. The proper principle was applied to the calculation of the votes, we always believed that it was the right computation, all we had to do was find the road to satisfying the court and I think we did that very well.”

Further, Counsel for the Appellant, Neil Boston said he is happy with the finding of the court but will proceed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) since he does not agree that the vote of Charrandass Persaud could be saved given his ineligibility to sit in the National Assembly by virtue of him being a dual citizen.

“This court, by a majority, did not agree with her, they said as long as we, alleged the constitution has been breached, then, of course, the court has jurisdiction to look and remedy. So, they allowed the appeal in part. Justice Rishi Persaud followed everything what Justice George had said. He didn’t analyse it, he just said agreed with the Chief Justice and we at all times, disagreed with the Chief Justice that this does not give rights to an election petition it’s a violation of provision to the constitution, and the court has jurisdiction to do that and that is it and we are going to go to the next level,” Boston explained.

Kidackie Amsterdam and Kipenie Jordan.

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