CCJ: Guyana Cabinet must resign & call elections by Sept 18

Guyana President David Granger and his Cabinet must immediately resign and call general elections before September 18. 

This was essentially the effect of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)'s decision to uphold the passage of a no-confidence motion in that country's National Assembly in December, last year. 

Delivering the court's final orders in the case, which was initially decided on June 18, CCJ President Adrian Saunders yesterday stated that the provisions of the country's constitution which deal with the consequences of the passage of such a motion should be strictly followed.

As a result, it did not set a date for the election. 

"These provisions need no gloss on the part of the court to render them intelligible and workable. Their meaning is clear and it is the responsibility of constitutional actors in Guyana to honour them," Saunders said. 

Under the Constitution, after a no-confidence motion is passed by the National Assembly, the president and Cabinet must immediately resign.

The Government is allowed to stay in place in a caretaker role until the fresh election is completed within three months.

The three-month deadline may be extended only by a two-thirds vote by the assembly. 

"It would not be right for the court by the issuance of coercive orders or detailed directives to pressure or instruct these bodies on how they should act and therefore preempt the performance by them of their constitutional responsibility," he said. 

As the no-confidence motion was appealed the three-month time limit will commence from when the CCJ eventually upheld it on June 18. 

In its judgement, the CCJ approved the appeal, in which Opposition Leader Bharat Jagdeo, ousted government member Charrandas Persaud and social activist Christopher Ram challenged the decision of Guyana's Court of Appeal to strike down the controversial motion, which was passed by a slim 33 to 32 majority. 

The judges suggested that the Appeal Court got it wrong when it stated that the formula for calculating the majority for the motion was dividing the number of assembly members by two, rounding off and adding one.

They stated a simple majority, as was taken last year, was all that was required as the assembly has an odd number of members. 

The CCJ further ruled that Article 156 of Guyana's Constitution, which requires assembly members to indicate if they wish to vote against their party and be removed a result, was not applicable in a no-confidence vote.

The court stated that assembly members were allowed to vote against their party even if it meant them being removed afterward.

The court also rejected arguments from Guyana's Attorney General Basil Williams and political activist Compton Reid over whether Persaud's vote should also be invalidated as he had dual citizenship with Canada. 

While it ruled that Persaud had been unlawfully elected to the assembly, it stated that his position could have only been challenged in an election petition brought within 28 days of when he was elected in 2015. 

The CCJ was also asked to consider a separate appeal from Opposition MP Mustapha Zulfikar, who challenged Granger's appointment of retired Judge James Patterson as chairman of the GECOM. 

The court ruled that Granger failed to give sufficient and compelling reasons for rejecting 18 candidates put forward by Jagdeo, before he went ahead to appoint Patterson in October 2017.

Patterson resigned on June 25. 

Delivering the final orders in that case, Saunders advised that Granger and Jagdeo should consult on appointing Patterson's replacement within a reasonable time and using the guideline set in the substantive judgement. 

- by Derek Achong

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