Contents of Rohee’s utterances at discretion of Speaker – APNU
As far as A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s chief legal mind, Basil Williams, is concerned, the ruling of Chief Justice Ian Chang in relation to the position of Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee does not change much. The party said that the ruling “maintains the status quo that currently exists in the National Assembly.”
Citing the ruling of Justice Chang, the shadow Legal Affairs Minister argued that the Home Affairs Minister is not privileged to speak in the National Assembly in that capacity. Rohee, he said, is however allowed to speak as a Member of Parliament on any issue other than national security, but those utterances, it was highlighted, will be at the discretion of the House’s Speaker, Raphael Trotman.
Williams was at the time addressing media operatives at a party press briefing when APNU executive member and Parliamentarian, Lance Carberry, sought to explain the role of the House’s Speaker on the issue.
Carberry said, “The speaker will determine whether or not that is appropriate. It is the Speaker’s prerogative,” he said, to determine whether Rohee’s utterances are relevant when he stands to speak as a Member of Parliament and not as Minister of Home Affairs.
Williams interjected that the Chief Justice, while giving Rohee the right to contribute as a Parliamentarian and elected member, highlighted that the Minister does not even have absolute right to do so. Williams clarified that, “In addition to the constitutional right that he (Chief Justice) is talking about to speak as a Member of Parliament, even that right is not an absolute right, because the Speaker can regulate that right through the standing orders.”
Williams said that the Chief Justice has declared that Rohee’s right to speak is also not an enforceable one, since again it is the Speaker who directs the conduct of the Parliament through its rules and regulations. Given the set of guidelines of separation of powers for the two entities, the Chief Justice ruled that the right itself “appears to be of such a nature as to be unenforceable by the Court.”
There has been much contention over the interpretation of the Chief Justice’s ruling. While the Opposition has seen the ruling in their favour, the Government has viewed the ruling as a victory and declared that the other side’s case is shaken.
Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall has argued that Rohee being Home Affairs Minister has nothing to do with him speaking since he is a Member of Parliament. Nandlall charged that “Rohee can speak, full stop.”
APNU is however saying that it is the government’s move now since the Chief Justice’s ruling vindicates the National Assembly, proving that the Opposition was trekking within its boundaries.
In the meantime, the “Gag Rohee” issue which stemmed from the one-seat majority Opposition coalition’s “no confidence” motion is still to be brought before the Committee of Privileges. The move to the Committee was what led to Minister Nandlall moving to the courts declaring that the committee had no jurisdiction to deal with the issue.
Chief Justice Chang has however noted that he will in no way get involved in the affairs of the committee, since it is an arm of the Parliament.
Williams said that the Chief Justice has struck out the AG’s declaration, noting that the committee has jurisdiction to look at any matter that is referred to it. “It is not a constitutional committee or a Parliamentary committee; it’s a committee established by the National Assembly under its standing orders, which deals with internal matters.”
Rohee is however in Parliamentary fire for what the Opposition indicated is his lack of competence by failing to efficiently execute his duties as Home Affairs Minister. Under his watch, they charged that national security has deteriorated and frankly, they are fed up with his performance.