Vote of Charrandass was an unprincipled ‘aggravated evil’ and not valid – Attorney Neil Boston
The vote of Charrandass Persaud to support the opposition’s No Confidence motion was an “unprincipled political and social evil” and an “aggravated evil” and should be deemed invalid, Attorney Neil Boston argued before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Friday.
If the CCJ so rules, it would split the votes for the No Confidence motion 32/32 and the entire motion would be thrown out, as is the usual case when there is an even number of votes on both sides of the National Assembly.
Boston is representing private citizen Compton Reid who is appealing the decision of the Court of Appeal not to invalidate the vote of Mr Persaud even though he was not eligible to be in the House because he possesses dual citizenship.
The Court of Appeal had upheld a High Court decision that while Mr Persaud was not qualified to be elected to the House by virtue of his dual citizenship, the process to challenge his election should have been made by way of an elections petition within 28 days when the list is published before the elections.
Since that was not done and since Mr Persaud was not removed, the Courts deemed that all of his actions, including his No Confidence vote, were valid since there is a constitutional provision that “saves” actions done by those who are not qualified to sit in the House.
In arguments before the court on Friday, attorney Boston also argued that there is legislation in place to guard against a member crossing the floor and that if a Member of Parliament chooses to vote against the list from which his name was extracted to be a Parliamentarian, then he should give notice and resign.
Boston argued that Persaud was duty-bound to vote with his party. He rebuffed arguments that Persaud was entitled to represent his constituency and vote according to his conscience.
“Mr Charrandass has never faced the electors.
“…Mr Charrandass has no constituency,” Boston argued, adding that Charrandass was put there as a front of his party and he was obligated to carry out the mandate of the party and vote in favour of his party.
One of the judges, Justice Dayton pointed out that there is no part of the constitution that mandates a Parliamentarian to vote with his party.
Mr Boston agreed but pointed out that by virtue of being on a party list, Persaud was obligated to vote with his party.
He conceded that Parliamentarians are allowed freedom of speech but said that freedom is not absolute. He said being part of a party list curtails that freedom.
However, he still acknowledged that a member can be freed to vote if the Chief Whip of the arty indicates to them that they can vote on their conscience.
President of the Court, Justice Adrian Saunders countered that while voting against your party may be immoral and an act of disloyalty, it is “different” thing to say the person’s vote is void.
Boston continued with his argument that Charrandass could not wake up one morning “surreptitiously” vote against his party.
“It is not permissible,” he declared, adding that such a vote would be “unconstitutional” but that the CCCJ has to decide what sanctions should be applied.
In her decision on January 31, the Chief Justice declared that she did not consider that Persaud was a lead usurper.
“More especially as it appears that he was only a usurper as regards No Confidence motion as not as regards other actions as a member of Parliament,” she stated.
Attorney for Persaud, Sanjeev Datadin argued that Persaud’s vote could not be thrown out on the claim that he was a usurper and an imposter when others in the government, were in the same position as he was, namely, holding dual citizenship and not qualified to sit.
It was also argued initially that the government cannot claim that Persaud’s vote should be thrown out on the No Confidence motion when all his previous votes for the government, including budgets, are not being questioned.
The Chief Justice, in her ruling, had stated: “In the context of this case, a party cannot be complicit in the perpetuation of an illegality and cry foul when things go wrong.”