Jagdeo pleased with CCJ ruling, wants fresh elections early

(CNS) – Guyana’s Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo Tuesday said that while the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) will be seeking to fresh regional and general elections ‘as soon as possible” following the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision, it would not be taking any action until after June 24 when the possible consequential orders will be discussed.

Jagdeo, who had successfully tabled a motion of no confidence against the David Granger led coalition government here last December, said that the ruling by the CCJ, the country’s highest court had ‘restored our faith in the judicial system”.

The government suffered two major setbacks in its efforts to continue in office as the Trinidad-based CCJ ruled that the December 21 motion of no confidence that had been passed by the National assembly was valid.

The CCJ also ruled that the process through which Reverend Justice (Retired) James Patterson was appointed Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by President Granger, was flawed and in breach of the Guyana Constitution.

In a ruling lasting just over an hour, CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders, said that the parties will meet on June 24 when the possible consequential orders arising from the rulings will be discussed. He said the costs will also be discussed then.

One of the options open to the parties is the provisions within the Guyana Constitution requiring that regional and general elections be held within three months of the defeat of the government on a motion of confidence, unless two-thirds of the National Assembly determined a longer period before the holding of elections.

“The CCJ has just declared a victory for constitutional rule in Guyana, Jagdeo told a news conference, telling reporters he had urged the government to accept the ruling of the Speaker in the National Assembly last December, but they went to the courts instead.

One of the main issues in that case was whether 33 or 34 votes were required to carry the motion given that the membership of the National Assembly totalled 65 members.

Charrandass Persaud, who was then a government legislator voted in support of the motion ensuring that the Granger-led coalition administration lost its one-seat majority in the 65-member legislative body.

When the matters came before the High Court in Guyana in January, it ruled that only 33 votes were required. However, on appeal to the Court of Appeal, the three-member panel by a 2-1 majority held that 34 votes were required.

Justice Saunders, who delivered the ruling of the five-member panel of judges following the main arguments in May, said the CCJ found that 33 is the majority in the Guyana Parliament and therefore the motion was passed by a majority.

“It meant that the government has been illegal since March 21, 2019, Jagdeo said, noting that his position is based on the CCJ ruling that the original motion of no confidence was valid.

“The count can’t start from today. The count should start from when the no confidence motion was validly passed, whichw as the 21st of December 2018…and that ended in March this year,’ jagdeo said in keeping with the requirements of the Guyana constitution that elections had to be held 90 days after the fall of the government.

“So what we had is an illegal government since March this year,” he said adding that the coalition administration had operated ‘as business as usual’ going to the parliament passing pieces of legislation instead of being a caretaker administration.

“This is what the decision (CCJ) actually says,” Jagdeo told reporters, adding “we will continue to act responsibly.

“We will continue to uphold the Constitution of Guyana, We will continue to abide by the rule of law even if our government doesn’t,” he said, adding “today faith has been restored in our judicial system’.

Jagdeo recalled when his administration had decided on making the CCJ, which was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court, many people here had been critical of the decision.

“I am sure all Guyanese must be happy that we have a final court that will adjudicate impartially on these matters,” he said, reminding reporters that he had informed supporters before the verdict was given that ‘if we win today it will be a sprint to the elections (but) if we did not, it would be a medium distant run”.

Jagdeo said that the ruling has provided an opportunity for all citizens ‘ to free ourselves from this cabal in a short period” but hasten to add that while the PPP had been planning to hit the road to force the government into holding fresh elections “you are not going to see any form of protest until the consequential orders are given because we want to respect the decision of the Court”.

“In the meantime today we have dusted off all our plans and the party will go into full election mode beginning tomorrow,” he said.

President Granger has said voters will be given a new opportunity to elect a government but only after a new voters list had been prepared.

“It is essential that we hold fair, free and credible elections. We cannot proceed on the current list of voters. It is outdated and corrupted. It may hold as many as 200,000 incorrect entries.  What’s more, those who have reached the age of 18 years since the last election are not on it”, Granger said, insisting that the elections cannot proceed on the current list.

However, Jagdeo told reporters that the coalition was living on “borrowed time’ and the PPP would again mount a stiff international lobby to pressure the government into calling the polls.

“We are reasonable but we are not giving into anything that will run counter to the Constitution and the law,” Jagdeo added.