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.