CCJ Tackles Guyana Constitutional Crisis No-Confidence Motion May 10

Caribbean Court of Justice President Justice Adrian Saunders.

A con­sol­i­dat­ed ap­peal seek­ing to bring fi­nal res­o­lu­tion to a con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis caused by the pas­sage of a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion in Guyana’s Na­tion­al As­sem­bly last De­cem­ber, will be heard by the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice (CCJ) on May 10.

A three-mem­ber pan­el of the court, com­pris­ing of CCJ Pres­i­dent Adri­an Saun­ders and Judges Ja­cob Wit and David Hay­ton, set the date dur­ing a case man­age­ment con­fer­ence on the ap­peal at the CCJ’s Hen­ry Street, Port-of-Spain, head­quar­ters yes­ter­day.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, the judges grant­ed leave for three ap­peals over the no-con­fi­dence mo­tion to be con­sol­i­dat­ed and heard ur­gent­ly. How­ev­er, lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Guyana’s At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Basil Williams ex­pressed reser­va­tions over ex­pe­dit­ing the case, as they claimed they need­ed time to prop­er­ly pre­pare a cross-ap­peal. They al­so not­ed that the process was be­ing stymied by the Court of Ap­peal’s de­lay in pro­vid­ing its writ­ten judge­ment in the case.

Saun­ders and his col­leagues did not ac­cept the sub­mis­sion, as they point­ed out that the case had al­ready been ex­ten­sive­ly ar­gued in the High Court and Court of Ap­peal and that it need­ed ur­gent res­o­lu­tion.

“The court is con­cerned and du­ty bound to up­hold the rule of law and the con­sti­tu­tion of Guyana. I am afraid coun­sel would have to put them­selves in a man­ner that would ac­cord with the court’s or­der,” Saun­ders said.

Saun­ders al­so or­dered the par­ties to serve the ap­peal on the Guyana Elec­tions Com­mis­sion (GECOM), as its in­put in the case may be nec­es­sary.

Most of the at­tor­neys in­volved in the case par­tic­i­pat­ed us­ing a video con­fer­ence link with Guyana’s Supreme Court. How­ev­er, Saun­ders in­formed them that they will all have to present in Trinidad for the hear­ing of the ap­peal in May.

“The mat­ter is of im­por­tance and we can­not af­ford with video con­fer­ence glitch­es,” Saun­ders said.

The case cen­tres around the no-con­fi­dence mo­tion in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment led by Guyana Pres­i­dent David Granger, which was passed by the 65-mem­ber as­sem­bly by a slim 33 to 32 ma­jor­i­ty on De­cem­ber 21 last year. The mo­tion suc­ceed­ed as for­mer gov­ern­ment MP Char­ran­das Per­saud con­tro­ver­sial­ly vot­ed along with Op­po­si­tion MPs based on moral grounds.

Fol­low­ing the mo­tion, which ef­fec­tive­ly forced the Cab­i­net to re­sign and to or­gan­ise for fresh elec­tions to be held, AG Williams filed a High Court ac­tion against Op­po­si­tion leader Bhar­rat Jagdeo and Speak­er of the Na­tion­al As­sem­bly, Dr Bar­ton Scot­land, to de­ter­mine if the mo­tion was law­ful­ly passed. Per­saud al­so filed an ac­tion chal­leng­ing a sub­se­quent de­ci­sion to dis­qual­i­fy him, as he holds Cana­di­an cit­i­zen­ship.

Act­ing Chief Jus­tice Rox­anne George-Wilshire weighed in on the is­sue first and ruled that the mo­tion was cor­rect­ly passed al­though Per­saud was il­le­gal­ly sit­ting as an MP due to his dual cit­i­zen­ship.

On March 22, the Court of Ap­peal over­turned the judge­ment as Chan­cel­lor of the Ju­di­cia­ry Yo­nette Cum­mings-Ed­wards and Ap­pel­late Judge Dawn Gre­go­ry ruled that an ab­solute ma­jor­i­ty of 34 votes was re­quired to pass the no-con­fi­dence mo­tion. Ap­pel­late Judge Rishi Per­saud de­liv­ered a dis­sent­ing judge­ment in which he agreed with George-Wilshire’s pre­vi­ous judge­ment.

The ap­peal is be­ing heard by the CCJ as Guyana is one of the few re­gion­al coun­tries which have re­placed the Unit­ed King­dom-based Privy Coun­cil as their fi­nal ap­pel­late court. Dur­ing yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, the court al­so ruled that it would hear a sep­a­rate ap­peal brought by Op­po­si­tion MP Zulfinkar Mustapha on May 8.

In that case, Mustapha is chal­leng­ing Granger’s de­ci­sion to ap­point Reverand Jus­tice James Pat­ter­son as chair­man of the GECOM in Oc­to­ber 2017. The ap­peals have to be de­ter­mined in and around the same times as if both are suc­cess­ful, a new chair­man would have to be ap­point­ed to fa­cil­i­tate fresh gen­er­al elec­tions.

Jagdeo is be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by a team of at­tor­neys in­clud­ing Dou­glas Mendes, SC, De­vesh Ma­haraj, Mo­hab­ir Anil Nand­lall and Chan­dra Pratesh Satram and Kan­dace Bharath. Williams’ le­gal team is be­ing led by Ea­mon Courte­nay, SC.

Source Trinidad & Tobago Guardian

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