CCJ sends Guyana back to polls

Back to the polls.

This in essence was the ef­fect of the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice rul­ing on Tues­day which held that pas­sage of a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion filed by the Op­po­si­tion against the rul­ing par­ty was valid.

Guyana’s Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion have been asked to come to­geth­er to de­cide on the way for­ward for the coun­try fol­low­ing the CCJ’s de­ci­sion.

While the CCJ’s Pres­i­dent Adri­an Saun­ders and his four col­leagues de­ter­mined the va­lid­i­ty of the vote in their judge­ment, they de­cid­ed to post­pone their de­ter­mi­na­tion of the con­se­quences of their de­ci­sion to next Mon­day, for the par­ties to dis­cuss their views on the is­sue.

In a brief ad­dress to the par­ties, most of whom did not trav­el to the CCJ’s head­quar­ters in Port-of-Spain for the judge­ment, CCJ Judge Ja­cob Wit ex­pressed hope that they would ar­rive at a con­sen­sus with­out fur­ther ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion.

“We are hop­ing for a hap­py mar­riage of prin­ci­ple and prac­ti­cal­i­ty,” Wit said.

Al­though the rul­ing es­sen­tial­ly means that Guyana’s coali­tion Gov­ern­ment led by Pres­i­dent David Granger would now have to re­sign with fresh elec­tions be­ing called, the CCJ has so­licit­ed the par­ties’ views on shap­ing its fi­nal or­ders and for set­ting a time frame for the elec­tions.

In a state­ment is­sued short­ly af­ter the judge­ment was de­liv­ered, Granger stat­ed that his Gov­ern­ment would abide by the rul­ing.

“I call on all Guyanese to re­main calm and I as­sure you that the Gov­ern­ment will abide by the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Co­op­er­a­tive Re­pub­lic of Guyana,” Granger said.

How­ev­er, he not­ed that he would have to wait on the Guyana Elec­tions Com­mis­sion (GECOM) to in­form him when they can fa­cil­i­tate a fresh elec­tion be­fore he is­sues the procla­ma­tion.

GECOM has pre­vi­ous­ly claimed that it could on­ly fa­cil­i­tate it by Oc­to­ber and No­vem­ber due to fi­nan­cial is­sues and de­lays in com­pil­ing a new vot­ers list.

“It is es­sen­tial that we hold fair, free and cred­i­ble elec­tions. We can­not pro­ceed on the cur­rent list of vot­ers. It is out­dat­ed and cor­rupt­ed. It may hold as many as 200,000 in­cor­rect en­tries,” Granger said.

In its judge­ment, the CCJ ap­proved the ap­peal, in which the coun­try’s Op­po­si­tion Leader Dr 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 no-con­fi­dence mo­tion in that coun­try’s Na­tion­al As­sem­bly in De­cem­ber, last year, 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 stat­ed that as­sem­bly mem­bers were al­lowed to vote against their par­ty even if it meant that they are re­moved af­ter­wards.

The court al­so re­ject­ed ar­gu­ments from Guyana’s At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Basil Williams and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Comp­ton Reid that Per­saud’s vote should al­so be in­val­i­dat­ed as he had dual cit­i­zen­ship with Cana­da.

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.

The CCJ was al­so asked to con­sid­er a sep­a­rate ap­peal from Op­po­si­tion MP Mustapha Zul­fikar, who chal­lenged Granger’s ap­point­ment of re­tired Judge James Pat­ter­son as chair­man of the GECOM.

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 in Oc­to­ber 2017.

“The giv­ing of rea­sons by the Pres­i­dent will en­sure trans­paren­cy and ac­count­abil­i­ty to the peo­ple, avoid uni­lat­er­al­ism and ar­bi­trari­ness, and en­gen­der pub­lic trust and con­fi­dence in the Elec­tions Com­mis­sion,” the judges said.

The is­sue of ap­point­ing a per­son to fill Pat­ter­son’s va­can­cy and a time-line for do­ing so is ex­pect­ed to be dis­cussed when the case comes up for hear­ing, next week.

Reporter: Derek Achong

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