By Ravin Singh
Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams has confirmed that the government will legally challenge the outcome of a no-confidence vote which appeared to have defeated them on December 21.
The confirmation was made on the sidelines of today’s sitting of the National Assembly after House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland opted not to review the controversial vote.
The no confidence motion which was piloted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo got the support of then government Member of Parliament (MP), Charrandas Persaud, giving the Parliamentary Opposition the one seat majority it believed it needed to topple the government. Persaud, who left the country the morning after the controversial vote, has since been recalled as a Member of the House.
The government believes that the opposition needed 34 votes, and not 33, to successfully pass the motion. With the Speaker refusing to review the vote, which he said he is empowered to do, AG Williams said his legal team is heading for the court.
“I’m talking to the people who are filing it right now. Yes, this afternoon” the Attorney General said, in relation to the matter being filed in court.
He said the approach of the government will be two-fold.
Firstly, the government will be challenging the legitimacy of Persaud’s vote, given that he holds dual citizenship – a condition that is unconstitutional for sitting Members of Parliament (MPs). That matter will be filed by Senior Counsel Rex McKay.
The other approach of the government’s legal team, is to challenge the interpretation of an “absolute majority”. It was believed that 33 of the 65 elected MPs constituted a majority.
However, prominent Attorney, and former Alliance for Change (AFC) executive member, Nigel Hughes advanced an argument that 34 constitutes an absolute majority and not 33. Hughes also referenced a case in which an absolute majority in another jurisdiction meant a half of all elected MPs, plus one.
Because that was not achieved on December 21, Minister Williams shared that “the Constitution was breached”.
Weighing in on the decision of the Speaker not to review the vote, AG Williams offered that “it was pretty good”.
He went on further, to state that: “I thought he felt that, rather than a decision being made in Parliament, we might as well go to the right forum and settle the issues. He approved of the issues, he thought the issues were good issues, and substantive issues which should be resolved by the courts and we don’t have a problem with that.”
Meanwhile, Williams, who is also an executive member of the People’s National Congress (PNC) – the largest party in the government coalition – shared that he has always supported political cooperation and shared governance.