The Court of Appeal on Thursday afternoon upheld a previous decision by the High Court that Ministers Keith Scott and Winston Felix sat unlawfully as Parliamentarians.
All three judges of the Court of Appeal – Justices Franklyn Holder, Dawn Gregory-Barnes and Rishi Persaud – affirmed and upheld the decision of then Chief Justice Ian Chang.
Chang had ruled on February 19, 2016, that Felix, the Minister of Citizenship, and Scott, Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, were not lawful members of the National Assembly and could not occupy seats in the House; this is because they were both sitting as “unelected” members or “technocrats” when in fact they both were on the list of candidates for the Coalition APNU+AFC for the 2015 elections.
Parliamentarians are elected from the lists of candidates submitted by parties before the elections; once the results are calculated and seats are allocated, the leader of the list will select the candidates to sit in the National Assembly.
However, four additional members to the House can be selected from outside of the list and they are known as “technocrats.”
The Coalition had selected three technocrats, namely Minister Sydney Allicock, and Ministers Felix and Scott. Technocrats are not allowed to vote in the National Assembly but they can present bills, answer questions, take part in debates and sit on Parliamentary committees.
Felix and Scott could not have been technocrats because they were on the Coalition’s list of candidates.
It was opposition PPP member Desmond Morian who had filed a constitutional motion questioning the legality of the appointment of the two APNU+AFC ministers of government.
When Chief Justice Chang had ruled, the government moved to get a stay of the judgment until the appeal was heard and determined; that stay was granted on February 26, 2016, by former acting Chancellor Carl Singh. As a result, Ministers Scott and Felix resumed their seats.
Thursday’s ruling bears no consequence on Ministers Felix and Scott as President David Granger dissolved Parliament on December 30, and thus Felix and Scott ceased being Parliamentarians on that date.
Chang had ruled that persons who are on the successful list of candidates are elected to the National Assembly and therefore cannot qualify under Article 105 to be non-elected MPs.
The Attorney General Basil Williams, who appealed the Chief Justice’s ruling, did not make arguments on the substantive ruling, choosing to focus on the High Court’s jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.
He had contended that the matter should have been addressed as an elections petition and not by way of notice of motion.
The Court of Appeal affirmed that the High Court did have jurisdiction to hear the case because the results of the elections, among other matters, were not under challenge.
Felix and Scott were appointed as Ministers on June 6, 2015 and became members of the National Assembly on June 11, 2015.