Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is seeking to be heard by the court in the action filed by private citizen Compton Herbert Reid, who is challenging the legality of former APNU+AFC parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud’s election as a Member of Parliament (MP) and his vote on the no-confidence motion passed against the government.
Jagdeo, through his attorney, Anil Nandlall, is arguing that as the one who brought the motion, he stands to suffer great prejudice and would be deeply aggrieved by any order or ruling the court may make or is likely to make in Reid’s action. Against this background, the opposition leader is arguing that the principles of natural justice and fairness combine to qualify him to be joined as a party who has a vested interest in the matter.
He argues that since the main thrust of Reid’s action is to nullify his (Jagdeo’s) no-confidence motion, which was declared passed by the Speaker and Clerk of the National Assembly, he ought to be added as a party to that case to protect his interest.
The action, filed by Reid last Friday, lists Persaud, House Speaker Dr Barton Scotland and the Attorney General as respondents.
Scotland has refused government’s request to reverse his recognition of the vote on the motion, while stating that the matter should be referred to the courts for full and final determination as the state is disputing that it was validly passed.
While initially accepting the decision, government has since argued that a “majority” as meant by the relevant constitutional provision is not 33 members of the 65-member House but 34.
The government yesterday filed its challenge to the vote.
In his action also filed yesterday, Jagdeo says he genuinely fears that there is “manifest connivance and collusion in the institution of these (Reid’s) proceedings and 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.”
Against this background, the opposition leader is contending that it is imperative he be permitted to be joined in the case, not only to protect the integrity of those proceedings but in order to protect and preserve the will of a majority of the elected members who voted in favour of the motion and also to protect and preserve the sanctity of proceedings in the National Assembly as well as the Constitution. He expressed the view that the matter raises not only issues of paramount constitutional and parliamentary significance but also fundamental political issues which may have far reaching implications for national democracy, peace, order and good governance.
Jagdeo is arguing that by virtue of Article 106 (6) of the constitution, “the Cabinet including the President shall resign if the government is defeated by the vote of a majority of the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
He then goes on to cite in part, Article 106 (7) which he said provides, inter alia, that notwithstanding its defeat the government shall remain in office and shall hold an election with three months thereof.
That article states in full that, “notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
A hearing date is yet to be assigned in Jagdeo’s action.
In his action, Reid is essentially seeking a declaration that Persaud could not have been qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly in the first place since he has Canadian citizenship.
He is also asking for an order setting aside the order of Scotland that the no-confidence motion was carried and for an order staying the enforcement of the motion. Additionally, he is asking the court for a conservatory order, preserving the status quo ante that the government remains in office until the hearing and determination of his application before the court.
On December 21st, a ‘yes’ vote from Persaud to the PPP/C sponsored no-confidence motion against the government tipped the scales 33 to 32 in favour. Consequently, Scotland declared that the motion had been carried. The government subsequently sent the Speaker a legal brief outlining six consequences of the vote and asked him to consider them and reverse his ruling. Scotland, at a sitting of the National Assembly last Thursday, said he would not do so and urged that the court be approached for redress.