GEORGETOWN – The Caribbean Court of Justice today ruled that the no confidence motion against the government was validly passed and the appointment of the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission(GECOM) was flawed.
The two landmark rulings have consequence for the governance going forward and the parties are to meet shortly to hammer out a consensus before the court makes any consequential orders. The judgments were delivered by President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders.
The motion which was cleared by the National Assembly and the High Court was invalidated by the Court of Appeal in March this year. The landmark ruling was made approximately one month after oral arguments were heard in the consolidated appeals challenging the Court of Appeal’s decision to invalidate the motion. The arguments were presented to a panel of five judges led by President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders in the Trinidad-based court.
Last December, the Parliamentary Opposition, by way of a No-Confidence Motion, attempted to topple the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government. But while Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire, in the High Court, upheld the decision of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland that the motion was carried by a majority of 33 votes, the Court of Appeal invalidated the motion on the basis that absolute majority of 34 votes were needed. The Opposition had secured the support of then Government Member of Parliament Charrandass Persaud to get an edge over the Government in House, but even with that extra vote, the Court of Appeal, by a 2-1 margin, ruled that an absolute majority of the 65-Member National Assembly is 34.
The March 22 decision of the Court of Appeal was subsequently appealed at the CCJ. Those appeals are: Christopher Ram v The Attorney General, the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon and the Guyana Elections Commission; Bharrat Jagdeo v The Attorney General, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Joseph Harmon and the Guyana Elections Commission; and Charrandass Persaud v Compton Reid, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Attorney General, Bharrat Jagdeo, Joseph Harmon and the Guyana Elections Commission.
Today, the CCJ also ruled on the appeal challenging the President’s decision to appoint Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson, Chairman of GECOM. In the case Zulfikar Mustapha vs Attorney General, both the High Court and the Court of Appeal had ruled that Justice (Ret’d) Patterson’s appointment by President Granger was legitimate.
In October 2017, President Granger swore in Justice (Ret’d) Patterson as Chairman of GECOM after rejecting three lists of nominees totaling 18 names submitted by the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on the grounds that they were unacceptable within the meaning of the Constitution of Guyana. Faced with three unacceptable lists, the President resorted to the proviso found within Article 161 (2), which permits him to independently appoint a chairman. (Guyana Chronicle)