As the time draws nearer for the no-confidence motion to be voted on, so do the fears, speculation and “worrying
interpretations of the law” by some political figures.
On a recently held radio programme, one government official disclosed his “revelation and interpretation of a clause in the Constitution” as it relates to the no-confidence motion. PPP Parliamentarian, Manzoor Nadir expressed that a clause in the Constitution outlines that “all elected members of parliament” must be present in the National Assembly when the “highly anticipated” no-confidence motion is put to a vote. The Public Accounts Committee member asserted that if a Parliamentarian from either side of the House is not present, then a vote on the motion could not be made.
The programme saw commentaries by Head of Blue Caps Clinton Urling and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s Shadow Minister of Agriculture and the Environment Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.
Urling expressed that he was not aware of the “newfound clause” as mentioned by Nadir and said that it underscores the need for research but in the end, it comes down to interpretation and the word of the Judiciary.
But Carl Greenidge, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee came forward to debunk the “silly and irrational” twists made to a clause of the Constitution in relation to the motion. Greenidge, before elaborating on his point, said that Nadir simply, “has to come better than that.”
“Having heard previous statements by the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, President Donald Ramotar and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon all of which hinted of the existence of mysterious requirements or procedures pertaining to the No-Confidence Motion, I have been waiting to see what the PPP would come up with. If Nadir’s comments are the full extent of the mystery to which they were alluding, then as the fellows say in the street, “they have to come again” for Nadir’s views are erroneous and possibly pernicious,” the former Finance Minister stated.
Greenidge explained that the revised Constitution has three sets of references to voting in the Assembly.
“First, determination of the outcome of a ballot shall be by a majority. Majorities mentioned are either simple or two-thirds of all the members. A two-thirds majority is required in two circumstances if a vote is to be carried; a confidence motion and the declaration of a state of emergency or war.”
With regard to no-confidence, actually ‘confidence motions’, the APNU parliamentarian stated that Article 106 (6&7) of the Constitution states that “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence. Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
Greenidge then made the point that two-thirds of 65 is 43. Therefore, absence from the Assembly makes no difference to that requirement.
He added, “But is that what is meant by the all members? These references to all the elected members need to be and have up to now been interpreted in the context of the specific article of the Constitution which deals with voting in the Assembly.”
Greenidge pointed out as well that the Constitution states that as it relates to voting, it says that “All questions proposed for decision in the National Assembly shall be determined by a majority of the votes of the members present and voting.”
Greenidge said that in law, perhaps more than any other discipline, it is imperative to read the entire reference document before drawing a conclusion about meaning. He said that it is inconceivable that drafting would have been so poor that the temporary illness or death of one Member of Parliament could frustrate the Assembly’s declaration of a state of emergency.
“Since the wording of the phrases on voting are all the same, it is for Mr Nadir to identify a single occasion when the interpretation of “all the elected members” has ever been determined with reference to those absent,” Greenidge expressed.
As it relates to Urling’s contention on research, Greenidge said that indeed, “research should be done before accepting gratuitous and obviously self-serving interpretations of the law, proffered by Nadir and his colleagues. It is a very simple matter and has been tested many times. An understanding of Article 168 requires no resort to the Judiciary. It never has.”
He concluded that the matter of voting on a no-confidence motion is not at all complicated.
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