In January, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Barton Scotland upheld the passage of the No-Confidence Motion resolution, declining a request by Government to reverse same. Sometime after, Resolution No. 101 was issued—this is a certification by the Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs that the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed by a majority vote.
Later that same month, Chief Justice Roxane George ruled that the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018 by a majority of all 65 elected members, which she underscored is 33 and not 34 as the Government has insisted.
These were some of the matters of contention when a panel of Judges including Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards commenced hearing arguments in an appeal filed by private citizen Compton Reid in one of the No-Confidence motion-related cases.
The matter being heard concerns Reid versus Dr. Scotland; expelled Alliance For Change (AFC) Parliamentarian, Charrandass Persaud; Attorney General, Basil Williams; Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo; and Joseph Harmon in his capacity as representative of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).
Among other things, Reid is asking the court for an order setting aside the order of the Speaker that the No Confidence Motion, Resolution No. 101 was passed by the National Assembly.
Presenting arguments on behalf of Persaud yesterday was Attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin who contended, “It is respectfully submitted that no Court has the power to go beyond or behind the hand of (the Speaker) Dr. Scotland. I am saying that, that which he has accepted as being passed, as unlawful.”
“Even if it is unconstitutional?” queried the Chancellor.
Responding Datadin contended, “The unconstitutionality would relate to the result of which would be as if it were an act. Therefore, it wouldn’t be that the confirmation of the Speaker is unconstitutional. It would be the act that was passed by Parliament is unconstitutional. That is not the circumstance which we are facing.”
Despite declaring that expelled Alliance For Change (AFC) Parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud, who voted in favour of the no-confidence motion against the Coalition Government, is not qualified for elections as a member of the National Assembly on the basis of dual citizenship by virtue of his allegiance to Canada, a foreign State, the Chief Justice had ruled that his dual citizenship does not invalidate the no-confidence motion.
This ruling was based on Article 155 (1) (a) of the Constitution of Guyana which states, “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or State.”
According to the Chief Justice, Persaud’s vote was deemed valid in accordance with provisions under Article 165 (2) which states, “The Assembly may act notwithstanding any vacancy in its membership (including any vacancy not filled when the Assembly first meets after the commencement of this Constitution or after any dissolution of Parliament) and the presence or participation of any person not entitled to be present at or to participate in the proceedings of the Assembly shall not invalidate those proceedings.”
Addressing the Court in this regard, Datadin argued that whether or not Persaud was entitled to participate in proceedings of the National Assembly, the Speaker’s declaration of Resolution 101 means that the proceedings were not invalidated.
The lawyer contended that any challenge to whether Persaud’s seat in the National Assembly is valid should have been brought by an elections petition, 28 days after voting as held by the Chief Justice in her rulings.
Moreover, Datadin pointed out that Article 58 (1) of the Constitution provides for a penalty for unqualified persons sitting or voting in the National Assembly.
That Article states, “Any person who sits or votes in the National Assembly, knowing or having reasonable ground for knowing that he is not entitled to do so, shall be liable to a penalty of two thousand, seven hundred and fifty dollars for each day upon which he so sits or votes.”
Subsection (2) says, “Any such penalty shall be recoverable by civil action in the High Court at the suit of the Attorney General.”
Datadin submitted that Article 64 of the Constitution gives the High Court powers to inquire into the membership of the National Assembly in accordance with Article 163, which speaks to the determination of question as to membership and elections.
However, he said that the High Court has limited jurisdiction in terms of inquiring into the affairs of Parliament.
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