The Bar Council of the Bar Association of Guyana welcomes the decisions of the Honourable Chief Justice (ag). delivered on 31 January 2019 in the three Actions arising out of the ‘No Confidence Motion’ which was passed in the National Assembly on 21 December 2018; the reasoned written judgments issued therefor on 11 February 2019.
We note the ruling of the Honourable Chief Justice (ag). at paragraph 108 of the written judgment in Attorney General of Guyana v Dr. Barton Scotland, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo and Mr. Joseph Harmon, Action No 2019-HC-DEM-CIV-FDA-22 as follows:
I hold that the NCM was carried as the requisite majority was obtained by a vote of 33:32. The President and the Ministers cannot therefore remain in Government beyond the three months within which elections are required to be held in accordance with art 106(7), unless that time is enlarged by the National Assembly in accordance with the requirements of the said art 106(7).
In a statement released on 26 December 2018, five days after the passage of the motion in the National Assembly, the Bar Council urged that the results and consequences of the motion be accepted and that urgent preparations for elections by the Elections Commission be started.
In that statement it was also said that the giving of effect to any contentions that there is some possibility other than elections being held within ninety (90) days of the passage of the motion could lead to instability and our democracy must be protected by the unambiguous adherence to the rule of law and to the provisions of Article 106(6) of the Constitution.
To date, fifty-four (54) days have elapsed since the passage of the motion and no date has been fixed for elections within the required constitutional period or otherwise. Neither the filing of appeals nor applications for orders staying the operation of the clear timelines fixed by the Constitution can stop the time from running within which elections must be held. Only a resolution of the National Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds of all of its elected members can extend the time for elections if it is necessary to do so.
By the provisions of the constitution, the Guyana Elections Commission is required to be in a state of readiness to conduct elections at any time within three months (90 days) of the passing of a ‘No Confidence Motion’ in the National Assembly.
The Guyana Elections Commission is required by the Constitution to issue such instructions and take such action as appear necessary or expedient to ensure fairness, impartiality and compliance with the Constitution on the part of persons exercising powers or performing duties connected with or relating to the registration of electors or the conduct of elections.
The Guyana Elections Commission and all other stakeholders required for the conduct of elections are bound by the operation of the constitution, the supreme law of Guyana.
The Bar Council therefore renews its call on all parties concerned, including the President, the Leader of the Opposition and the Guyana Elections Commission, to take such immediate steps as will avoid Guyana entering into a constitutional crisis and prevent the dire effects such a crisis could have on the country.