By Wednesday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo will file an appeal at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) challenging last Friday’s ruling by the Guyana Court of Appeal that invalidated the passage of the December 21 no-confidence motion against the government.
“As I speak, work is ongoing on the preparations of the appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice. We are going to use every procedure available, under the rules of court, to ensure that the appeal is heard and determined at the earliest possible time,” Jagdeo’s attorney Anil Nandlall told Stabroek News yesterday.
“We are hoping that we can be before the court very, very early next week,” he added.
Nandlall explained that part of his legal team’s preparation includes the use of “certain procedures available, under the rules of court” that could bring the matter before the CCJ in the shortest permissible time.
Asked what constituted the shortest possible time, in his estimation, he said, “that can be in a matter of days.”
While Nandlall led Jagdeo’s legal team as the case moved from the Chief Justice to the Appeal Court, Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes will lead for the CCJ hearings.
“Our legal team will be led by Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes who is widely respected as a constitutional expert in the region, among other experienced lawyers from the Caribbean,” Nandlall informed.
He said that like the hearings before the Chief Justice and the Appeal Court, the CCJ hearings should be of key interest to Guyanese as these are perhaps the most important cases in Guyana since independence particularly as it relates to Guyana’s constitutional democracy, peace, and public order.
It is for this reason that he believes that the CCJ will expedite hearing the case. “I do not anticipate any difficulty in persuading the CCJ that this matter must be heard and determined within the shortest possible timeframe,” Nandlall said, as he reiterated that he believes the issue is a narrow and very simple one.
“It is what constitutes a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly of Guyana. So I don’t anticipate the hearings to be protracted,” he stressed.
He said that while the opposition PPP disagrees with the Guyana Court of Appeal, “we will respect the ruling as we hope that the CCJ would reverse it.”
“In that event, the status quo ante the ruling will be resurrected and therefore, the government’s unconstitutional status will resume because the three months period from the date that the no-confidence motion was passed, would have expired,” he added.
The no-confidence motion, sponsored by Jagdeo, was declared passed by Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland following a vote in its favour by then APNU+AFC parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud on the night of December 21st.
Government had initially accepted that the motion was properly carried but later backtracked, claiming the need for an “absolute majority of 34” from the 65-member National Assembly, while also arguing that Persaud’s vote was invalid given his dual citizenship.
The Guyana Court of Appeal, by a majority decision, on Friday overturned the January 31st ruling made by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire that the no-confidence motion was validly passed with 33 votes, saying that the correct mathematical formula for finding the “absolute” majority was not used.
Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards and appellate judge Dawn Gregory both agreed that 34 votes were required to guarantee the motion’s successful passage, while appellate judge Rishi Persaud dissented and endorsed the Chief Justice’s ruling.
Dr Francis Alexis, a Grenadian Queen’s Counsel, on behalf of the Guyana government, had submitted during oral arguments earlier this month that the incorrect formula had been utilised for calculating the votes to validate the passage of the motion. He had reasoned that in Guyana’s 65-member National Assembly, half would result in a fraction of 32.5. If it is to be rounded to the next whole number, that figure will be 33 and, in accordance with the practice and the application of the meaning of majority, one has to be added to calculate a majority.
Meantime, Nandlall reiterated yesterday that he wants to make clear that he has never agreed that an “absolute majority” was needed as he has always refused to accept that the framers of the Constitution were unfamiliar with that term. He had made similar statements on Friday following the Appeal Court ruling.
Attorney and accountant Christopher Ram, who was one of the respondents in the appeals brought by government after the Chief Justice found on an application in his name that the APNU+AFC Cabinet, including the president, stood resigned upon the passage of the PPP/C-sponsored motion on December 21st, has also indicated that he would appeal Friday’s ruling at the CCJ.