Back to the polls.
This in essence was the effect of the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday which held that passage of a no-confidence motion filed by the Opposition against the ruling party was valid.
Guyana’s Government and Opposition have been asked to come together to decide on the way forward for the country following the CCJ’s decision.
While the CCJ’s President Adrian Saunders and his four colleagues determined the validity of the vote in their judgement, they decided to postpone their determination of the consequences of their decision to next Monday, for the parties to discuss their views on the issue.
In a brief address to the parties, most of whom did not travel to the CCJ’s headquarters in Port-of-Spain for the judgement, CCJ Judge Jacob Wit expressed hope that they would arrive at a consensus without further judicial intervention.
“We are hoping for a happy marriage of principle and practicality,” Wit said.
Although the ruling essentially means that Guyana’s coalition Government led by President David Granger would now have to resign with fresh elections being called, the CCJ has solicited the parties’ views on shaping its final orders and for setting a time frame for the elections.
In a statement issued shortly after the judgement was delivered, Granger stated that his Government would abide by the ruling.
“I call on all Guyanese to remain calm and I assure you that the Government will abide by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” Granger said.
However, he noted that he would have to wait on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to inform him when they can facilitate a fresh election before he issues the proclamation.
GECOM has previously claimed that it could only facilitate it by October and November due to financial issues and delays in compiling a new voters list.
“It is essential that we hold fair, free and credible elections. We cannot proceed on the current list of voters. It is outdated and corrupted. It may hold as many as 200,000 incorrect entries,” Granger said.
In its judgement, the CCJ approved the appeal, in which the country’s Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat 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 no-confidence motion in that country’s National Assembly in December, last year, 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 that they are removed afterwards.
The court also rejected arguments from Guyana’s Attorney General Basil Williams and political activist Compton Reid that Persaud’s vote should also be invalidated as he had dual citizenship with Canada.
The judges stated that Persaud’s position in the assembly 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.
“The giving of reasons by the President will ensure transparency and accountability to the people, avoid unilateralism and arbitrariness, and engender public trust and confidence in the Elections Commission,” the judges said.
The issue of appointing a person to fill Patterson’s vacancy and a time-line for doing so is expected to be discussed when the case comes up for hearing, next week.