As the Court of Appeal prepares to hear applications by Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams for orders to stay the effects Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire’s judgments on the validity of the no-confidence vote against government and to keep the president, the Cabinet and government, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall yesterday said it should be focused on disposing of the substantive appeals.
“We are hoping that at the hearing of that matter [the applications for the stay and conservatory orders] that we will be able to persuade the court that it is more convenient to hear the appeals,” Nandlall said yesterday, after the hearing of the applications was set for Wednesday.
“Why would you want to dilate and delay in hearing those interlocutory matters when in fact we can hear and determine the appeals in their entirety and bring a quick resolution in the matter, at least in this court, so that if anyone is aggrieved they are free to go to the Caribbean Court of Justice?” he questioned.
Williams applied for the orders in wake of the ruling in the case he brought against Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, and in the decision in a case initiated by chartered accountant Christopher Ram. The applications are to be heard at 2 pm on Wednesday by Justice Rishi Persaud at the Court of Appeal in Kingston.
In each case, the court is being asked to grant an order for an interim stay of the effect of the judgment and order(s) of Justice George-Wiltshire until the hearing and determination of the Summons filed; an order for a stay of the effect of the judgment and order(s) until the hearing and determination of the appeal filed, a conservatory order preserving the status quo ante that the President, Cabinet and all Ministers of the Govern-ment remain in office until the hearing and determination of the appeal; and such further or other order as the court may deem just.
One of Williams’ arguments is that without a Cabinet, no funding can be made available to the Guyana Elections Com-mission (GECOM) for the holding of general elections, which are constitutionally required within three months as a result of the passage of the motion. Identical reasons were also listed in the affidavits in support by State Counsel Raeanna Clarke.
Following the passage of the no-confidence motion, a total of three matters were filed. In addition to the actions brought by the AG and Ram, private citizen Compton Reid also filed a matter.
Justice George-Wiltshire, who heard oral arguments and reviewed written submissions over a one-week period, delivered her rulings on January 31st. She ruled that the motion was validly passed despite then government member Charrandass Persaud’s ineligibility to have been a parliamentarian given his Canadian citizenship, that the 33 votes in its favour constituted the needed majority of the 65-member National Assem-bly and that this should have triggered the immediate resignation of the Cabinet, including the President. Persaud’s vote gave the opposition the critical support needed for the motion to be declared passed.
Nandlall and several attorneys in the cases spoke to reporters shortly after meeting with the Appeal Court’s staff yesterday to deal with the filing and preparation of records for the appeal cases.
Nandlall, who is the attorney for Jagdeo, said ordinarily six weeks are permitted under the rules of court for the preparing and filing of records. However, in this instance all sides have indicated an intention not to use six weeks because of their intention to have the appeals heard as quickly as possible.
He said appellants have indicated that they will be ready in about seven days with the records of appeal and once this is circulated then a date will have to be fixed urgently for the appeal to be heard.
Nandlall said yesterday that the date for the hearing of the appeals can be fixed within the next 14 days.
“All the arguments are ready, all the arguments have been prepared and it is simply a rehearing or a review of what transpired in the court below. There [are] no new arguments that are going to be advanced here. So, in two days the hearing can be concluded because all the submissions are in writing. It is simply about giving an opportunity to articulate orally, for the purpose of emphasis, anything that may require any expansion…,” he said.
“I am pushing for it to be concluded at the earliest possible time because this is a matter that involves public importance. It involves the democratic foundations of this country and certain people are using the fact that the matters are in the court as a basis to stultify, frustrate and refuse to comply with express language and provisions of the constitution and I am hoping that by advocating for an early hearing and disposal of these matters that basis would be removed from those who are championing that cause,” he added.
Nandlall charged that the interlocutory applications are another “method to delay” the holding of elections. “We want the appeals to be heard. The appeals can easily be heard. Those applications which are pending… are intended to basically suspend the provisions of the constitution from taking effect. No competent court can grant that. No competent court can say that the no-confidence motion can’t take effect,” he insisted.
Attorney Robert Corbin, one of the attorneys for Reid, noted that the settling of the records is a routine part of the court process. He explained that parties settle documents which should be exhibited by the applicant to avoid any problems during the appeal so that all the documents which are tendered and filed in the proceedings prior to the appeal are all there for the appellate judges to hear.
Attorney Roysdale Forde, who represents General Secretary of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Joseph Harmon, said that following the submission of all documents and the preparation of the records of appeal, the court is expected to set a date for the hearing.
Asked whether he is concerned that the process is taking too long, he responded in the negative. “I don’t believe it is taking too long. Having regard to the timelines and the regular practice, it is being expedited by the Court of Appeal,” he said.
Two appeals were filed by the AG while Forde, in association with Olayne Joseph, filed two more several days later. To date, the attorneys for Reid have not filed an appeal although they had indicated that they planned to do so.