Speaker can ‘reconsider’ passage of No Confidence vote – AG
Attorney General Basil Williams has argued that Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland can “reconsider” the Parliamentary resolution in which he declared that the No-Confidence vote had been “carried” or approved.
The Attorney General has since written to the Speaker requesting that he does so.
The Government is contending that there was a miscalculation of the votes, claiming that 34, and not 33, should be considered a majority in the 65-seat legislature.
In arguing his case, the Attorney General said there is established Parliamentary precedent and practice and case law in the Commonwealth.
He suggested that the ordinary and legal meaning of a majority is greater than half and quoted the Merriam Webster Dictionary (1838) which defines majority as “a political principle providing that a majority usually constituted by fifty percent plus one of an organised group will have the power to make decisions binding upon the whole.”
As such, he said that in a mathematical calculation of 65 members of the House, half would mean 32.5 and there are judicial authorities to show that where a number results in a fraction it is rounded up.
In this case, he said the “rounded” figure would be 33 and so a majority would have to be 34.
If the Speaker refuses the Government’s request to reconsider that the vote was in fact not carried, it is certain to go to Court to settle the issue and has assembled a team of local and overseas lawyers to do so.
“The Judiciary, which is one of the three arms of the State will intervene where the Constitution, the supreme law of the land is abridged.
“Therefore the Court can nullify the Speaker’s decision if it is found be unconstitutional,” the Attorney General told reporters at his Carmichael Street, Georgetown office.
In the motion brought by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, 33 members voted in favour and 32 voted against.
The Opposition secured the 33rd vote it said was needed to force the Government out of office early when Government Parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud defected.
Immediately after the vote on December 21, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, the leader of Government business in the House accepted defeat and the following day, the President said the Government would abide by the stipulations of the constitution, namely holding general elections in 90 days.
The Attorney General Monday morning said neither the President nor the Prime Minister’s words matter at this time given the position now on the status of the vote.
“The Speaker can reconsider the resolution and reverse any decision he may have made and is not barred by the sub judice rule. This assertion is grounded in Parliamentary practice.
The Government is also challenging the vote on the grounds that Parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud is disqualified to be an elected member of the National Assembly because he is a citizen both of Guyana and Canada.
Asked about other Parliamentarians, including those on the Government side who may have dual citizenship, the Attorney General said that was not under contention at this time, just Charrandass Persaud.
“The Speaker of the National Assembly is duty-bound to observe the constitution as the supreme law of Guyana.
“Therefore, if there is a ruling of the Speaker which is unconstitutional, that error can be revisited and corrected by the Speaker,” Williams asserted.