CCJ: Guyana no-confidence motion valid

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has upheld the passage of a no-confidence motion in Guyana's National Assembly in December, last year. 

The decision, delivered at the CCJ's headquarters in Port-of-Spain, Tuesday morning, means that Guyana's coalition Government led by President David Granger would now have to resign and with fresh elections being called. 

However, the court did not set a timeline for the election, instead opting to invite submissions on the issue from attorneys for the parties involved. The submissions are expected to presented during a hearing, next Monday. 

In the judgement, CCJ President Adrian Saunders and four of his colleagues approved the appeal in which the country's Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, ousted government member Charrandas Persaud and social activist Christopher Ram challenged the decision of Guyana's Court of Appeal to strike down the controversial motion, which was passed by a slim 33 to 32 majority. 

The judges suggested that the Appeal Court got it wrong when it stated that the formula for calculating the majority for the motion was dividing the number of assembly members by two, rounding off and adding one. They stated a simple majority, as was taken last year, was all that was required as the assembly has an odd number of members. 

The CCJ further ruled that Article 156 of  Guyana's Constitution, which requires assembly members to indicate if they wish to vote against their party and be removed a result, was not applicable in a no-confidence vote. 

The court also rejected arguments from Guyana's Attorney General Basil Williams and political activist Compton Reid over whether Persaud's vote should also be invalidated based on his Canadian dual citizenship. 

The judges stated that Persaud's position in the assembly could have only been challenged in an election petition brought within 28 days of when he was elected in 2015 and his vote should stand. 

In a separate appeal, the CCJ ruled that the appointment of retired Judge James Patterson as chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in October 2017 was fundamentally flawed. The court ruled that Granger failed to give sufficient and compelling reasons for rejecting 18 candidates put forward by Jagdeo, before he went ahead to appoint Patterson. 

Despite its decision on the issue, the court was careful to note that it did not cast aspersions on Patterson's competence for the role. 

The issue of appointing a person to fill Patterson's vacancy and a timeline for doing so is expected to be decided when the case comes up for hearing, next week. 

- by Derek Achong

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