A threat to invoke the courts, again
The courts are going to be kept pretty busy if a recent announcement by the Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr Roger Luncheon, is anything to go by. The courts have already been asked to rule on a move by the parliament to change the composition of the Parliamentary Committee of Selection. It was not an overtly long challenge in the courts given the fact that sessions were held rather promptly.
This issue is not yet determined because the government says that it is going to challenge the initial ruling in the Court of Appeal. None can fault the decision because even in the field of medicine the patient always tries to seek a second opinion.
It has always been a norm in the court for the victim who feels that he or she is wronged to seek another opinion and the forum for that opinion is achieved by way of an appeal. So the initial ruling on the Parliamentary committee change is to be challenged.
Parliament also applied the knife to some sections of the national budget on the grounds that the explanation for the funds was not clear. We do know that in any part of the world public funds are always subjected to the most rigid scrutiny in a democracy. Guyana is no different. The enforced scrutiny may be different because of the difference in the composition of the parliament.
In the past, given the control that the government would exert by virtue of its majority in the House, some of the things that are now making headlines would have been ignored because the opposition knew that its serious arguments would have been futile. The media would merely report on the debate, refusing to take one position or the other.
There is always sympathy for the underdog and parliamentary oppositions have always been seen as the underdogs. This time around, the so-called underdogs hold the majority in parliament in a new dispensation that sees a minority government in Guyana for the first time in its post independence history.
The result is that many of the things that the government would have wanted to institute and would have instituted had it held the majority, are now challenged. This year there have been cuts to the national budget and the government says that these cuts have stymied some of the very things that it wanted to execute.
But the move to the courts is not intended to challenge the cuts in every area. It is to challenge the cuts as these affect the president from performing his duties. Surely, the constitution gives the executive wide-ranging powers and it stipulates that no pillar of the government should encroach on the powers of the executive.
Already the government is of the view that the opposition is operating out of spite and that its decisions are irrational. This is the message that it is taking around the country and even overseas. People are listening. The government says that some of the listening people have condemned these cuts. They may have prompted the move to the courts.
That being said, courts are generally the avenue of last resort. All other avenues must be explored before there is a resort to the courts. For example, the government could return to the parliament and seek to resolve the issue. The parliamentary opposition has said that it is prepared to review the cuts provided the explanations for the funds are clear and certainly not contradictory.
One would expect that the government would therefore modify the explanations and return to the National Assembly. The government says that it is apprehensive given that the very National Assembly had refused a supplementary vote on some issues.
The very apprehensive government is going back to the parliament to seek a reversal of the vote on the supplementary budget. We suppose that if there is indeed a reversal then the government may postpone its move to the courts.