A move as far as the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) seems likely as Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams SC., announced that the country’s government would be filing its case at the Appeal Court, following the ruling on Thursday, by Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George.
“It’s just another day in the life of the courts and the ruling of the Chief Justice is stage one. We had said that they needed to have 34 votes and not 33 because you require an absolute majority as against a simple majority. The simple majority is 33,” the Attorney General told the media following the ruling at the High Court.
AG Williams had filed a case against the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland and the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo asking that the court rule on several issues:
(1) whether the Speaker’s Ruling the motion debated in the National Assembly on the December 21 was carried by a vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly is unlawful, null and void being contrary to Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana and;
(ii) whether the requisite majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly ought to be 34 votes;
During her ruling, the acting Chief Justice explained that while there is a need for an absolute majority vote in the National Assembly, the 33 votes in the 65-member Parliament, in her opinion, would constitute that majority.
Minister Williams maintained that the Government disagrees with the notion that the 33-vote constitutes an absolute majority, contending that absolute majority is stronger than the simple majority in Guyana’s parliament and therefore;
“33 cannot be the same vote for the absolute majority, and in any event, we are talking about a parliament of 65 as an odd number Parliament, and the cases show when you have an odd number in the Parliament to get the majority, you divide it by half plus one and when you divide 65 by half you get a fraction and, since there is no half human, you have to round up the fraction to the next whole number. If the absolute majority, as the former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sir Dennis Byron said, we have an absolute majority when he looked at our constitution and the simple majority, and he said that the absolute majority is stronger than the simple majority. And, that is another decision by the President of the CCJ, Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders.”
The attorney general said that the government is confident that they have a strong case to move forward. He noted that Guyana’s court system is hierarchical and therefore, “our final court is the CCJ”.
“We feel very strong in our case, and just in what happened with Cedrick Richardson where we went to appeal to the Court of Appeal and from the Court of Appeal to the CCJ where we won it and stop Bharrat Jagdeo from saying that he could have a third term, we are going all the way again and there is no need to weep… Nothing is over until the CCJ makes the final determination.”
On the matter of the conservatory order, preserving the status quo ante that the President and all Ministers of the Government stay in office until the hearing, Minister Williams said that application will be renewed at the level of the Court of Appeal.
“The time is running, and we wish to have this matter resolved before the time runs out and that why you ask for a stay of the order.”
Once the stay is granted, the government will continue its business until the final ruling.
In on official statement the Government of Guyana said:
The Government of Guyana notes and respects the rulings of the Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George handed down today, January 31st, 2019.
The ruling is not in favour of the Government’s position with regard to the vote on December 21st 2018 however due process continues and the Government will file an appeal in the Court of Appeal. The government continues to believe that the full adjudication of this issue is in the national interest.
Until the matter is concluded at the highest court of appeal the status quo remains and the business of government continues as usual. The government reassures the Guyanese people that it will continue to act in accordance with the constitution of Guyana.