…says case cited not applicable to Guyana’s 65-seat National Assembly
ATTORNEY-at-law Roysdale Forde said the case Alberta Federation of Labour v Minister of Finance (2009) cited by attorney Anil Nandlall is not applicable to Guyana’s 65-seat National Assembly in arriving at a majority on a vote of No-Confidence.
Nandlall, the attorney representing Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, in his submissions in the constitutional cases Attorney General v Christopher Ram and others, and Attorney General v The Speaker of the National Assembly and others, cited the case of Alberta Federation of Labour v Minister of Finance (2009) in support of his position that 33 votes constitute a majority in the House.
On Wednesday when the oral arguments continued in the cases in the Court of Appeal, Forde, who is representing Joseph Harmon, General Secretary of APNU, a party in the cases, told the Chancellor, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud that the case cited by Nandlall is not applicable to Guyana’s National Assembly setting.
He explained that unlike the scenario presented in the case Hughes v Rogers, the case of Alberta Federation of Labour v Minister of Finance does not present an odd number but rather an even number, that is, 14.
“In Hughes v Rogers, it was an odd number which necessitated the judge in that case to engage in the fraction issue,” Forde argued while noting that in the Alberta case, half constituted a quorum, and that the case cited by Nandlall did not present a fractional situation.
The case, he told the court, is not applicable, explaining that “it did not require a determination of any number beyond half. All the legislation required for you to determine is what constitutes half, so there was no basis to apply any half plus one rule in this matter.”
Forde is supporting the positions of Attorney General Basil Williams and his battery of lawyers. On government’s behalf on Tuesday, Queen’s Counsel, Dr. Francis Alexis of Grenada, submitted to the court that in order to arrive at an absolute majority in an uneven number of seat in the National Assembly, the total number must be decided by half, which would result in a fraction; that fraction must then be rounded up and one added to arrive at the desired and constitutionally required number.
Meanwhile, Kamal Ramkarran, the Legal Counsel representing Christopher Ram, on Wednesday urged the Appellate Court to uphold the decision of the High Court, that is, the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed by a majority of the National Assembly.
In presenting his arguments, Ramkarran rebutted the arguments put forward by Dr Alexis and Forde that the fraction must be taken into consideration when arriving at a majority of the 65-Member National Assembly. He said both Dr. Alexis and Forde cited a number of cases to support their formula, when this particular case is peculiar to Guyana, and must be looked at on its own merits and taking into account the words embedded in the Constitution.
He said the “rounding up” formula is not in the Constitution or the Interpretation and General Clauses Act. He said commonsense must be applied to arrive at a majority. According to him, a majority is a number more than half. Ramkarran told the Court that in the National Assembly, 33 is greater than half of all elected members, and constitutes a majority.
Ramkarran also told that Court that contrary to the arguments put by Attorney-at-Law Maxwell Edwards, the Constitution does not guarantee the government a five-year-term in Office. On Tuesday, when the oral arguments commenced, Edwards submitted that Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire misdirected herself in law when she ruled that Article 70 (3) of the Constitution does not guarantee an elected government a term of five years.
“Our respectful submission your honours, is that Section 5 of the Constitution of the Amendment Act No. 17 of 2000 which introduced the No-Confidence motion into our Constitution of jurisprudence is inconsistent with Article 70 (3) of the Constitution,” which guarantees an elected government a five-year term in office,” Edwards argued.
However, on Wednesday when the oral arguments continued in the Appellate Court, Ramkarran said that the Chief Justice dispelled Edwards’ contention with “great force.” He argued that while Article 106 (6) and Article 106 (7) were not included in the 1980 Constitution, it was embedded in the Constitution in 2000; they are not subjected to Article 70 (3). He put to the court that it is Article 70 (3) that is subjected to Article 106 (6) and Article 106 (7).