The parliamentary opposition can also block government’s bills unless it has input
It is clear that President Donald Ramotar and his Attorney-General are ill-suited for their respective jobs. First, President Ramotar said in a June 13 staged interview with state media that he will not sign any bill passed by Parliament without input from his government.
The President’s clearly ill-conceived and ill-advised threat stemmed from the fact that the parliamentary opposition, with its one-seat majority, has defeated the government on issues brought for up-down voting in Parliament.
“That is not the function of the opposition,” he complained.” They must respect what is their role… I am making it very clear that I will not assent to any bill that they carry unless it is with the full agreement of the executive and the full involvement of the executive.”
How on earth does he not know that the parliamentary opposition can also issue a threat to his government by making it clear that it will not support any government-sponsored bill brought to Parliament unless the parliamentary opposition has an input?
Then there was the Attorney-General in a KN news story, “President not a puppet of National Assembly – Attorney General,” (June 23), as he piggybacked bare-back on the President’s ill-conceived and ill-advised threat.
I sincerely hope media houses in the Caribbean have picked up on his intellectually challenged remark that “It would be irresponsible for a national assembly to pass a law which would collide with executive Policies and programmes which the executive is pursuing, because it is the exclusive responsibility of the executive to craft, implement, promulgate and administer policies. So you cannot make laws that would be contradictory to those policies, so it is recommended that the National Assembly is consistent with implementing laws to develop the country in line with Government policies. Legislators must ensure that the laws are in keeping with the executive’s policies.” What triteness!
Anyway, AG Anil Nandlall, a man whose caiibre as a legal practitioner would never have qualified him for a similar post anywhere in the law-abiding Caribbean, tried unsuccessfully in his interview to impress us with his knowledge of what the Constitution has to say about the President assenting or not assenting to bills passed by Parliament. It was a loquacious exercise in futility, because any layperson will tell you that laws are passed in Parliament but only become effective after the President assents to them.
Traditionally, because the ruling party formed the government and controlled Parliament in Guyana, the passage of bills into law was pretty much cut and dry, since the legislative and executive branches almost always worked from the same script.
I said ‘almost always’ because in 2007 – Google “President cites ‘different reasons’ for not assenting to bills,” SN, February 8, 2007 – then President Bharrat Jagdeo, was forced to explain during a media briefing, why he did not assent to ten bills passed in the National assembly in 2006, a year when his party held a parliamentary majority, and which refusal caused many observers to question his motive. But besides that exception, the general rule of thumb is that Parliament passes bills and the President assents to them so they came become law.
Fortuitously, voters on November 28, 2011, changed the entire arrangement from the ruling party controlling both the executive and legislative branches of government to now allow the ruling party to control the executive branch, while the combined parliamentary opposition has voted to control the legislative branch.
Under the current parliamentary configuration, therefore, the executive branch cannot dictate to the legislative branch how to vote on issues.
So, instead of this politically juvenile take-it or leave-it attitudinal posture by the PPP regime, what is needed is for the regime to quickly come to grips with the reality of November 28 that empowers APNU and the AFC to share in the decision-making process.
The people want a tri-partisan involvement of the PPP, APNU and AFC on all matters before Parliament, making maximum use of parliamentary committees to this end.
This means that, after waiting almost seven months for the executive and legislative branches to get down to work on the people’s business, the parliamentary parties need to dump the tripartite talks and take whatever was going to be discussed in that forum to the respective parliamentary committees, so that everything is said under oath and is recorded for future legal references.
To those who still think the tripartite talks are useful, I want you to know that there is no legal recognition of the tripartite forum, and players can easily renege on agreements without legal consequences.
I also want to refer you to the inter-party talks featuring Jagan-Hoyte, then Jagdeo-Hoyte and ended with Jagdeo-Corbin. Was anything discussed ever made public or was any agreement legally binding?
As far as I am concerned, it is beginning to appear as though the tripartite talks are being conveniently used by the PPP to engage in delay and deny tactics to achieve an ulterior goal that would benefit the PPP only.
Perhaps, the aim is to replace Parliament with tripartite talks and then screw up the talks to then claim Parliament is going to be a waste of time. Did someone warn of a constitutional crisis?
Meanwhile, let us hope the President and his Attorney-General can grow quickly into their respective jobs or risk being labeled Guyana’s political version of Mutt and Jeff or Bud and Lou.