By a majority decision on Friday, the Appeals Court struck down Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire’s decision that the no-confidence motion was validly passed by 33 to 32 votes, ruling that an “absolute majority” of 34 votes was required to pass a no-confidence motion.
Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards said the Chief Justice’s calculation of 33 votes was for a “simple majority.”
Quoting several authorities and case precedents, the acting Chancellor said, “applying the principles discussed… I am of the view that the majority, as found by the learned Chief Justice, applies to the case of a simple majority but in relation to the case of an absolute majority, the figure to be arrived at is that of 34 votes. I am of the view too that, applying a purposive approach and the words of the statute being read in their entire context the grammatical and ordinary meaning and the scheme of the act, the object of the act and the intention of the parliament that is consistent with the provisions of article 106(6)… the absolute majority in a 65 seat would lead to 34 votes. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed.”
Justice Dawn Gregory explained 34 votes were required after rounding up 32.5 to 33 and adding another vote to acquire an absolute majority of 34. She said using 33 votes was “flawed and untenable and is not the absolute majority.”
In his dissenting decision, the third Court of Appeal judge, Justice Rishi Persaud, agreed with the Chief Justice’s ruling, said the no-confidence motion was validly passed by 33 to 32 votes.
Justice Persaud disagreed with Caribbean constitutional expert, Queen’s Counsel Dr Francis Alexis, on the basis that his argument that the no-confidence motion could only have been passed by rounding up 32.5 (half of the 65 seats) “does not accord with logic or commonsense” unless there is a stated formula.
He agreed with the Chief Justice that the President, as Chairman of the Cabinet, and Cabinet stand automatically resigned immediately after the passage of a no-confidence motion. Justice Persaud agreed that the President and government remain in office and prepare for elections.
“Notwithstanding the automatic resignation, the government shall remain in office to hold elections within a specified time-frame,” he noted.
As regards the Canadian citizenship of then government parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud, whose vote had allowed for last December’s passage of the no-confidence motion, the Appeal judge said there was no evidence to prove that Persaud had known that he had been ineligible to be a parliamentarian. “To ascribe such knowledge to Mr. Persaud is far-fetched to my mind,” he said.
Justice Gregory upheld the Chief Justice’s decision that Persaud’s vote was valid although he is a dual citizen.
Counsel for the Appellant, Neil Boston says he is happy with the finding of the court, but will proceed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) since he does not agree that the vote of Charrandass Persaud could be saved, given his ineligibility to sit in the National Assembly by virtue of him being a dual citizen.
Boston explained that “This court, by a majority, did not agree with her, they said as long as we alleged the constitution has been breached, then, of course, the court has jurisdiction to look and remedy. So, they allowed the appeal in part. Justice Rishi Persaud followed everything what Justice George had said. He didn’t analyse it, he just said agreed with the Chief Justice and we at all times, disagreed with the Chief Justice that this does not give rights to an election petition it’s a violation of provision to the constitution, and the court has jurisdiction to do that and that is it and we are going to go to the next level.”
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