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Mar 29, 2019

A First-of-its-kind Constitutional Challenge Goes before the C.C.J.

Eamon Courtenay

A week ago, Guyana’s Court of Appeal ruled two-to-one that thirty-four votes were needed for the no-confidence motion to succeed.  Before then, at the end of January, the government resorted to the High Court where Acting Chief Justice Roxane George ruled that the motion was legitimate and that regional and general elections should be held within a ninety-day period.  During the vote of no-confidence, government backbencher Charrandas Persaud supported the Opposition, triggering the crisis.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Guyanese Government

“I should add that there is an added element in that Mr. Persaud, who crossed the floor, it was found out after he voted that he has dual nationality and if you have dual nationality, just like in Belize, you cannot sit in the House of Representatives.  In the case of Guyana, in their National Assembly, so we will also be arguing that his vote should have never ever been counted because he was unqualified to be elected and his vote was in violation of the constitution.  So whether thirty-three or thirty-four is the correct number, we say that his vote should have never been counted and it fails.  The reason why there is an urgency to the case is because under the Guyana constitution, if a no-confidence motion passes elections must be held in three months.  Well the three months would be the twenty-second of March 2019.  Well we are past that and no elections have been held and the elections commission in Guyana which is independent of the government has said that they have to do a re-registration exercise before an election can be held.  And so, they say that they cannot do the election until the earliest November of this year.  So the other fundamental issue is, since the three months have passed, as mandated by the constitution, is the government lawfully in office?”

 

David Granger

Isani Cayetano

“How unique a case is this because it would seem as though it’s a first-of-its-kind legal matter?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Well we have done a lot of research and we have not found any case that is very similar to this.  There are cases of unqualified members of the house voting and so we have cases and precedence on that.  But in terms of a constitution saying, if a no-confidence passes, you have a specific time by which you must demit or have elections and demit office, we have not found any precedence so it seems to be quite a unique case.  We had the case management conference this morning and there was quite a number of attorneys and I understand that some more will be joining the many teams because there are three cases and all three have been consolidated to be heard together on the tenth of May in Trinidad & Tobago.  It’s of high constitutional importance for Guyana, as you can imagine, but in terms of Commonwealth Caribbean and the wider law, I think it’s a unique case and will be setting a precedent.”


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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