Well-known Attorney-At-Law Nigel Hughes, who once served as the Chairman of the Alliance For Change, is standing by his position that there was no majority passage of the no confidence motion, when one considers the make up of the National Assembly and what would constitute a majority.
Mr. Hughes contention is that the Constitution speaks of a majority for the no-confidence motion to be carried, but with 65 members, 33 does not really represent a majority.
According to Hughes, half of 65 would be 32 and a half, but because there could be no such thing as a half member, in his opinion, it is moved to the closest number which is 33 as that half. He said 34 votes would have been needed, in his view, for the motion to be carried by a majority.
The opinion of the Attorney has triggered off massive debate within the legal halls and on social media with his initial post pulling in hundreds of comments and shares on Facebook.
At a morning press conference, Mr. Hughes said he is not budging from his position and he believes precedence exists.
He said “this is different from other legislation which may allow the passage of a Bill based on a vote of those present. Here like amending the fundamental right of the constitution, in what is required, is a majority of the elected members of the House.So let’s say you have forty people turned up and you only had 28 votes in favour and the rest against, that would not be a vote of the majority of the elected members of the House, because the number of elected members of the house is 65 and half of that is 32.5, therefore half would in effect mean 33 members, so you would have to have more than half for a vote of confidence or no confidence to pass…the vote of 34 members was not acquired for the vote to pass”.
He pointed to two cases as setting precedent. Mr. Hughes said one of those cases was identical to the Guyana situation and in that case in Vanuatu (see it HERE), the Court ruled that there was no majority.
Mr. Hughes was clear to point out that he is simply offering his opinion on the matter. He said it will be up to the Government, the Opposition and the Parliament whether they want to take another look at the matter. He said when the National Assembly reconvenes, the Government could ask the Speaker to review the matter and the Speaker could then turn to legal minds from within and out of Guyana.
Meanwhile, former Attorney General and Opposition Member of Parliament, Anil Nandlall said he does not buy the Hughes argument. He said when he was Attorney General, a similar opinion was offered to him when the PPP government found itself in the minority by one seat and was facing a possible no confidence motion. In a statement on his Facebook page, Mr. Nandlall said “this argument is not a new one. It came to me as Attorney-General when our government was in a minority. I did not pay much attention to it then. Nor do I accept it now”.
He said the Speaker has already ruled that the Motion was carried and both the President and Prime Minister have publicly indicated that the Motion was carried and that the government has fallen and that they will abide with the Constitutional prescription which flows therefrom.
However, Attorney Nigel Hughes said that acceptance does not mean an ordinary citizen could not approach the Court for it to offer an interpretation in the matter or for the Government to seek a revisit of the motion.