Tuesday 1 December, 2020

CCJ rules Guyana Cabinet must go; Elections soon

President of Guyana, David Granger

President of Guyana, David Granger

*Disclaimer: Video contains some strong language*

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ordered through a consequential declaration that President of Guyana, David Granger and his cabinet resign and allow elections in the South American country to go ahead as soon as Constitutionally mandated.

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The declaration was issued on Friday.

The decision follows a motion of no confidence that was carried in the CARICOM nation’s parliament just over six months ago, on December 21, 2018, in which a member from the Government’s bench, Charandas Persaud, added his vote to 32 votes submitted by the Opposition. As a result, 33 members voted in favour of the motion and 32 voted against.

When the case was brought to the court, it declared that the motion of no confidence in the Government is valid in keeping with the country’s Constitution which states that the Cabinet, including the President, is required to resign if the Government is defeated by the majority vote of all the elected members of the National Assembly “on a vote of confidence”.

At the time, the CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders also issued a number of guidelines to be followed, which included the selection of a new head of the country’s Electoral Commission, who subsequently resigned.

In today's ruling, Justice Saunders stressed that, as a matter of the greatest public importance, “the President and the Leader of the Opposition should, as soon as possible, embark upon and conclude the process of appointing a new GECOM Chairman.”

The court noted that there is clear guidance in Article 106 of Guyana’s Constitution on what should happen next, stating, “upon the passage of a vote of no confidence, the Article requires the resignation of the Cabinet including the President.”  It added that notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and that an election shall be held “within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine”.

The Court also noted that the filing of the court proceedings in January, challenging the validity of the no-confidence vote, effectively placed matters on pause but reminded, however, that it had rendered its decision on 18 June 2019.

As to the precise orders it should make, the CCJ cautioned, that it was not, “the role of the Court to establish a date on, or by which, the elections must be held”, stressing that Article 106 was clear and should be followed.

The CCJ also expressed the view that it is expected that the Government will continue as a caretaker for the affairs of the country but that in light of its caretaker role it should be restrained in the use of its legal authority.

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