GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Feb 20, CMC – The Guyana government has signalled its intention to appeal a High Court ruling that could prevent two government ministers from sitting in the National Assembly as un-elected members or technocrats
Outgoing Chief Justice, Ian Chang said Junior Minister of Social Protection Keith Scott and Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Winston Felix- could not sit in the National Assembly as un-elected members or technocrats because they are on the list of elected candidates for the coalition.
Last July, a member of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), Desmond Morian had challenged the constitutionality of Scott and Felix, to sit in the House as un-elected members because they had in fact been elected at the May 11, 2015 general elections.
In his ruling Justice Chang, however, did not issue an order to House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland to prevent Scott and Felix from sitting in the House.
“The question of the legal entitlement to sit in the National Assembly is a matter of constitutional legality or illegality – which falls out with the internal operations of the Assembly. Therefore, the court has the jurisdiction to issue a writ of Prohibition or Mandamus to the Speaker to prevent or to put an end to unconstitutionality.
“However, in the instant case, the court does not foresee that the Honourable Speaker will not act in accordance with the dictates of the law and the Constitution as declared by the Court. The Court therefore does not see the necessity of giving any direction to the Honourable Speaker at this juncture. In deference to the doctrine of judicial restraint the court refrains from issuing a coercive order against the Speaker,” Chang said in his ruling.
Morian’s lawyer, Anil Nandlall said he felt vindicated” and e was now looking forward to seeing what would obtain at the next sitting of the National Assembly scheduled for Monday, February 22.
But Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams said that he was disturbed by the ruling of Justice Chang and the manner in which it was made.
A government statement quoted Williams as describing Justice Chang’s ruling as a political matter. Noting that the Judge had come out of retirement leave to make a decision, Williams said a ruling of such a nature is bound to be controversial.
“The ruling in this matter signifies a dot on the administration of justice in this country…we are going to take whatever recourse we consider necessary in this matter. What would impel him to do that? I find it unusual and it’s something we will address further,” Williams said.
Among the options that can be pursued are to appeal the decision and file a stay of execution.
The statement said that during the trial the attorney Nandlall, was given an opportunity to make substantive arguments in the matter despite objections by the Attorney General.
“I had appealed to the Chief Justice to just limit ourselves as he had no jurisdiction to proceed to hear the matter because it was not by way of an election petition,” Williams said, adding that “I’m very surprised that the learned Chief Justice would purport to proceed to give a decision without hearing from me”.