Govt to move to court if Speaker’s ruling not in its favour – AG Williams

DPI, Guyana, Monday, December 31, 2018

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, SC., said the Coalition Government is ready to move to the courts if the ruling, by the Speaker of the House at its next sitting, does not fall within its favour. The National Assembly was adjourned on December 21 following a heated debate on a no-confidence motion brought against the government by the Parliamentary Opposition, which subsequently saw both sides voting on the motion.

Addressing the media at a press conference this morning, the Attorney General disclosed that a legal memorandum was presented to the Speaker of the House, Dr. Barton Scotland on Sunday, December 30. The legal document provides all the necessary information on the no-confidence motion, the AG explained noting that it could work in the government’s favour.

The memorandum sets out the legal issues that the government wishes to be considered by the Speaker.

These include the following:

(i) taking into account whether 33 votes in favour of the motion amounted to a majority of all elected members in accordance with Article 106 (6) of the Constitution, whether Resolution 101 is constitutional and effective and passed in accordance with Article 106 (6) of the Constitution,

(ii) whether Member of Parliament (at the time of voting), Charrandas Persaud was disqualified to vote as an elected member of the National Assembly,

(iii) whether the Speaker can reverse the ruling that the no-confidence motion was carried,

(iv) what is the effect of the sub judice rule should the Speaker’s ruling be legally challenged in the Courts,

(v) and whether the Speaker’s ruling on the vote could be nullified by the Courts.

The AG explained: “The Judiciary, which is one of the three arms of the State, will intervene where the Constitution, the supreme Law of the land, is abridged. Therefore, the Court can nullify the Speaker’s decision if it is found to be unconstitutional.”

According to AG Williams, the government has a fully qualified team if the need emerges to challenge the Speaker’s ruling. The legal team includes Senior Counsel Rex McKay, prominent Attorney Stephen Fraser, the incoming Attorney General of Belize and advisors from Barbados.

AG Williams further explained that the constitutional requirement for voting on a motion of no-confidence is distinct from voting on the passage of legislation and ordinary motions in Parliament.

“The framers of the Constitution, by requiring the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly, have set the requirement as an absolute majority. The passage of legislation and motions outside of Article 106 (6) procedurally only requires a vote of those members present and voting (Article 168) i.e. a simple majority. Therefore, resolution 101 was not passed by the required majority of elected members of the National Assembly.”

Government’s position has always been that the opposition-led motion, which was supported by former government backbencher Charrandass Persaud on December 21,  was not validly carried since the opposition needed 34 votes instead of 33 votes for an absolute majority.

Alexis Rodney.

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