‘Disappointed’ opposition to appeal ruling on House majority

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The Opposition Friday evening expressed disappointment with the majority ruling at the Court of Appeal that effectively means the Government continues in office without consequence, importantly, without the need to call early general and regional elections.

“Understandably, I am disappointed, for we felt that 33 has always constituted the majority in our National Assembly since independence and that belief of ours, supported by reality, has been turned upside down,” said Anil Nandlall, attorney for the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

The Court of Appeal ruled, by way of a 2-1 majority, that the December 21 No Confidence motion was not passed because they determined that 34 and not 33 votes in the 65-seat House was needed as an “absolute majority” to pass the motion.

The Opposition will appeal the case at the Caribbean Court of Justice – which serves as Guyana’s final Appellate Court.

“While we have won on all issues of law, as you would have heard, we have lost on maths and I never thought this to be a case of maths, I thought this was a case of law,” said Nandlall.

Jagdeo described the 34-majority ruling as “strange mathematics” saying that there was widespread acknowledgement in Guyana that 33 constituted a majority in the 65-seat House.

Attorney Anil Nandlall speaking with reporters outside the Court of Appeal Friday evening

“We believe that this matter will be resolved definitely at the Caribbean Court of Justice; we shall appeal this ruling almost immediately,” said Jagdeo, posting a video message on the Facebook page of the People’s Progressive Party.

Jagdeo acknowledged that many of his supporters, hundreds of whom protested against the Government Friday, would see the Court of Appeal ruling as a setback, but he urged them to remain mobilised.

“We will continue to work every single day to ensure that people of Guyana know nature of this Government,” said Jagdeo.

“We will be respectful of the ruling of the court,” said Jagdeo.

He said the Opposition will continue to argue for the Guyana Elections Commission to be prepared for early elections, as the PPP believes there is a “great possibility” that the decision can be overturned.”

“They can hang around for a while, but they can’t hide forever,” Jagdeo said of the government.

The Chief Justice, on January 31, had determined that the No Confidence motion was carried (or passed), declaring that a requisite majority was obtained by a vote of 33 members against 32, and so “the President and the Ministers cannot therefore remain in Government beyond the three months within which elections are required to be held in accordance with Article 106 Sub Article 7 unless that time is enlarged by the National Assembly in accordance with the requirements of said Article 106 Sub Article 7.”

That deadline expired Friday and the President was expected to announce a date for elections. But that is most likely to be thrown out the window with the ruling of two of the judges at the Court of Appeal.

Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Dawn Gregory did not agree with the Chief Justice that the motion was passed by ma ajority of 33 in the House, while the third judge, Justice Rishi Persaud, agreed.

Justices Cummings-Edwards and Barnes reasoned that a division of half of the National Assembly would be 32.5 and that needs to be rounded up to 33, and hence for a majority, one more would be needed, making the majority 34.

“We always believed that it was the right computation; all we had to do was find the road to satisfy the court and I think we did that very well,” the Attorney General said after the ruling at the Court of Appeal.

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