Gov’t now mulls appeal against Chang’s ruling
Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, yesterday said that Government welcomes the announcement that Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman, will file an appeal against the ruling of the Chief Justice (CJ), Ian Chang.
Chang ruled last week that the Opposition measure of preventing Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, from speaking in the National Assembly was unconstitutional.
Nandlall has revealed that Government is also mulling the decision to file its own appeal since many of the reliefs applied for in the Court case were not granted by the CJ.
However, the Speaker, Raphael Trotman, is not appealing the Chief Justice’s decision. He does not have the right of appeal, a judicial source said.
Trotman has since said that he is moving to the courts to seek an explanation of the ruling. The judicial source said that Trotman would have to move via a clarification order.
Speaking to the state media on the several responses made by the Parliamentary Opposition and the Speaker, Minister Nandlall said that “a court of law has pronounced on the law and that is what is important.”
He was adamant that the Privileges Committee of the Parliament could not decide anything contrary to a pronouncement made by a court of law on matters of law, making it clear that the Chief Justice had also stated this in his judgment made on the Government’s case.
“If we have persons in the National Assembly, who are not prepared to give effect and to recognise the clear pronouncement of a court of law, what faith can I place in the Privileges Committee?” he questioned.
In mid-November, Trotman had ruled that there was nothing in the laws of Guyana, the Constitution or the Standing Orders of the National Assembly that prevents Minister Rohee from speaking in the National Assembly.
Government is saying that this ruling clearly contradicted itself since it also included the prohibition against the Minister from presenting any legislation or making any presentations with respect to his Ministerial portfolio.
Addressing this “contradiction” with the current events, Minister Nandlall stated, “From the first ruling that the Honourable Speaker made, nothing has changed, and there still seems to be a reluctance to accept the legal position that an elected member of the National Assembly can speak on any matter. Whether that elected member is a Minister or not is completely irrelevant to his right to speak on any matter in the National Assembly.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition is insisting that the Privileges Committee address the issue.
Nandlall observed that it is the Speaker who has control over the National Assembly and the responsibility to ensure that members enjoy their legal right to speak there.
“That responsibility cannot be transferred to another agency. It resides exclusively with the Honourable Speaker.”
Minister Nandlall also observed that there has not yet been any definitive pronouncement on the Speaker’s initial response that he would be the one to decide whether Minister Rohee speaks or not.
He explained that Government would have to collectively make a decision if the Speaker, having regard to the pronouncements by the CJ, inhibits Minister Rohee from speaking on matters pertaining to the Home Affairs Ministry.
The other eventuality, on which Government would have to make a decision, would be if Mr. Trotman does allow the Minister to speak on ministerial issues and the subsequent negative response of the Opposition.
“Based on those two eventualities, Government will have to assess what options are available and what recourse to pursue,” he said.
Nandlall noted that it was regrettable that the CJ’s ruling is being made to be ambiguous and equivocal.
“I am bewildered by some of the statements attributed to the Honourable Speaker that I misrepresented certain facts in the Court documents,” he said.
“Although the High Court has ruled on three successive occasions that it has jurisdiction to enquire into the business of Parliament upon an allegation that the Constitution is violated, these rulings do not seem to have settled the issue in relation to the undoubted power of the Court to review the actions of organs of State for their Constitutional compliance.
“This is the precise issue upon which the Honourable Speaker wishes to appeal, although this is a trite and settled legal position in the entire Commonwealth. I nevertheless welcome the decision to appeal. Hopefully, it will bring greater clarity to those in whose mind this axiomatic legal principle is unclear,” the AG declared.