…dual citizenship, House majority to be heard
…Minister Harmon among persons joined as party to the matters
IN THE High Court today, Guyana’s Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire will hear the ‘Fixed Date Application’ in which a New Amsterdam farmer, Compton Reid, is challenging the validity of the vote cast by Charrandass Persaud in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018. The Chief Justice (ag) will also be hearing the Fixed Date Application filed by the Attorney General Basil Williams, in which he is challenging the passage of the No-Confidence Motion against the Government on the basis that the Opposition did not secure a majority as required by the Constitution.
In both cases, the applicants are asking the court to set aside the order of the Speaker of the National Assembly that the No-Confidence Motion, Resolution No. 101 was passed. Conservatory orders, preserving the status quo ante that the Government remains in office until the hearing and determination of the reliefs, are also being sought. Minister Joseph Harmon has joined as party to the proceedings.
The first case, which addresses the issue of dual citizenship, will be heard at 13:30hrs.
Reid, through his attorney Rex McKay S.C, will be arguing that Charrandass Persaud was not qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly by virtue of his own act and acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience and adherence to a foreign power in contravention of Article 155 (1) (a) of the Constitution of Guyana, and as such, his vote was invalid. Charrandass Persaud, though Guyanese by birth, is a citizen of Canada.
Article 155 (1) (a) of the Constitution states: “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who – (a) is, by virtue of his or her own act, under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.” He (Reid) has asked the court to issue seven declarations along with the orders, with respect to Persaud’s citizenship and the validity of the motion.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland; former Member of Parliament Charrandass Persaud; and the Attorney General Basil Williams are the named respondents in the matter.
The second named respondent in the matter, Charrandass Persaud has filed an application asking the Court to issue an order that it is without jurisdiction to grant the declarations sought by the Fixed Date Application, filed by Rex McKay on behalf Compton Reid. He is therefore asking the court to strike out the entire application.
Charrandass Persaud is being represented by Attorneys-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin, Stephen Singh, Ganesh Hira, Anessa Chow and Donovan Rangiah. Through his attorneys, the controversial politician is arguing that the Fixed Date Application is misconceived and without any legal merit.
“The declarations are misconceived and have no prospect of succeeding. All challenges to the election and appointment of members of Parliament are governed by statute, the National Assembly (Validity of Elections) Act; and all such challenges must be brought within 28 days and must be instituted in the Court by Petition. Neither of these requirements has been satisfied by the applicant,” the attorneys told the Court in response to the seven declarations being sought by Reid along with the orders.
According to the battery of lawyers, the grant of declaratory orders in relation to the business of Parliament is contrary to common law and practice and goes against the express provision of statue of Guyana.
Though he is not named as a respondent in this case of dual citizenship, the Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo has applied to be a party to the proceedings.
In laying out the grounds for his applications, the Opposition Leader, through his lead attorney Anil Nandalall, said that he will be affected by the outcome and “genuinely fears that there is manifest connivance and collusion in the institution of these proceedings.”
He also put to the court that the “ Attorney-General would be ready and willing to consent to judgment in a deliberate conspiracy to pervert these legal proceedings in order to nullify the aforesaid No-Confidence Motion and its constitutional consequences.”
Meanwhile, the other matter in which the Attorney General is challenging the passage of the No-Confidence Motion against the Government will be heard at 14:30hrs.
By way of his application, the Attorney General is asking the court to determine whether the Speaker’s declaration that the No-Confidence Motion was carried by a majority in the National Assembly, is unlawful, null and void on the basis that its contradicts Article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana.
Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
On December 21, 2018, the Speaker had declared that the Opposition sponsored motion was passed after 33 Members of Parliament voted in its favour and 32 against. However, some legal luminaries have since argued that the 33 votes did not constitute an absolute majority as required by the Constitution. As such, the Attorney General is asking the court to determine if the motion of no-confidence was validly passed or whether the requisite majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly ought properly to be 34 votes.
He is also seeking an order to allow for the President and all ministers of the Government to remain in office on the basis that a majority vote was not duly carried in accordance with Article 106 (6) of the Constitution.
Speaker of the National Assembly and the Leader of the Opposition, the mover of the motion, are the named the respondents. The Speaker by way of a notice has indicated that his attorney is Rafiq Khan, S.C.