NEW YORK, CMC – The US-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) has written to the Speaker of the Guyana Parliament, Dr. Bartland Scotland, requesting he considers annulling last weekend’s vote of no confidence that brought down the David Grange coalition government.
Cites Guyana Constitution
In the letter, the CGID said it is relying on Article 153 (a) and (b) of the Guyana Constitution, that notes “a member of the National Assembly elected on a list shall cease to be a member of the Assembly if: (a) “He or she declares in writing to the Speaker or to the Representative of the list from which his or her name was extracted that he or she will not support the list from which his or her name was extracted;” and (b) “He or she declares in writing to the Speaker or to the Representative of the list from which his or her name was extracted, his or her support for another list.”
Last Friday, government backbencher Charandass Persaud voted with the opposition Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) to win the no-confidence motion in the 65-seat National Assembly after several hours of debate.
The Granger led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition had held a slender one-seat majority since the 2015 general elections.
In the December 24 letter, CGID said that “Persaud publicly withdrew his support for the APNU+AFC coalition List from which he was extracted and declared his support for the PPP/C List.
Persaud’s vote is null, and should be vitiated
“Consequently, in accordance with Article 153 (a) and (b) of the Guyana Constitution, it is the position of CGID, having consulted with several attorneys in Guyana and internationally, that Mr. Charrandass Persaud’s vote for the no confidence motion against the government on December 21 is null, void and of no legal effect, and should be vitiated,” CGID wrote.
“The institute, therefore, respectfully solicits your review and sanction of this matter of urgent national importance,” it added.
The CGID said that, prior to the Constitution Amendment Act of 2007, Article 156.3, an original provision of the Constitution, stated that “A member of the national Assembly elected on a list shall be disqualified from being a member of the Assembly, if he or she in the prescribed manner, declares that he or she will not support the list from which his or her name was extracted or, declares that he or she abstain from supporting that list or, declares his or her support for another list.”
CGID said this original provision, Article 156.3, was repealed and replaced with the extant provisions of Article 153 by the Constitution Amendment Act of 2007.
“The amendment, notwithstanding the fundamental intent of the framers of the Constitution, remains applicable and paramount to the interpretation of the extant provisions of Article 153,” CGID wrote, adding that the Constitution “comprises binding rules which govern the organization, powers and administration of government and society.
“The intent of the framers, thereof, is the jurisprudential standard for constitutional interpretation,” it added.
CGID said the framers of the Guyana Constitution intended, in Article 153 (a) and (b), that “a member of the Assembly, elected by the people and extracted from his party’s List, cannot act against, refuse to support nor vote against the List from which he or she was extracted, and neither can a member vote for, with or in support of another List, without first declaring such intent to the Speaker in writing.”
Consequently, the US based group said that Article 153 (a) and (b) of the Guyana Constitution “mandates that any member who, accordingly, makes such declaration against the List from which he or she is extracted or in support of another List, shall cease to be a member of the National Assembly.
“The commission of an act against the List from which a member was extracted, as well as an act in support of another List, for which a written declaration was deliberately and deceitfully withheld from the Speaker, likewise violate the provisions of Article 153 (a) and (b), and similarly disqualifies such a member immediately from the Assembly, since the intention of the Constitution is for the member to fully honor the content of Article 153 to the letter,” it said.
CGID said Article 153 clearly mandates that “before a member acts against the List from which he or she was extracted, or in support of another List, a declaration of that intent must be first submitted to the Speaker, the consequence of which, or the failure to so declare, require nullification of the act by the Speaker and disqualification of the member from the Assembly.
“Article 153, therefore, safeguards against the government side of the Assembly bringing itself down,” CGID said. “It follows, therefore, that a public withdrawal of support for the List from which a member was extracted and the public declaration of support for another List, with or without a declaration to the Speaker, automatically triggers or invokes Article 153 (a) and (b), and such member shall cease to be a member of the Assembly.
“Honorable, Speaker, on Friday, December, 21, 2018, Mr. Charrandass Persaud, then a member of the Assembly, who was extracted from the APNU+AFC coalition List, voted in favor of the no confidence motion that was tabled in the National Assembly by the parliamentary opposition, against the APNU+AFC coalition government of Guyana, enabling its passage,” added CGID in its letter to Scotland.
As a result of Friday’s no confidence vote, Guyana is preparing for general elections early next year.
Persaud, a lawyer, told reporters after the vote that his conscience had been “stifled for long,” adding that he had not been offered any money or position by the opposition to vote against the government.
Persaud, who had long criticized the PPP as “corrupt” and “out-of-touch”, among other things, said he will be tendering his resignation to Parliament and the Alliance for Change (AFC), a partner in the coalition government, and that he would not be returning to the House as a Member of Parliament for the AFC.
In the interim, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, a former president, said that he plans to meet with Granger on several issues. The meeting is scheduled for next month.