An open letter to the Clerk of the National Assembly
Re: 1st Meeting of the Committee of Privileges – 21st January, 2012
Your letter dated 16th January, 2013, refers.
As you may be aware, the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly had indicated in a letter to the Honourable Prime Minister and Leader of Government business in the House, and publicly, that the matters which are to be considered at the captioned meeting would not be dealt with by the Privileges Committee until the proceedings pending in the High Court were heard and determined.
Those legal proceedings have not yet been heard and determined. Indeed, at page 33 of the Chief Justice’s ruling, the following passage appears, “the Court allows the Motion to be proceeded with in relation to paragraphs 1 (b) and 3 (b) of the Notice of Motion.” Additionally, the Honourable Speaker has indicated at a Press Conference that he intends to appeal the Court’s ruling. I also, intend to cross-appeal. In short, from every conceivable perspective, the legal proceedings are far from conclusion and indeed are pending. No reason has been furnished by the Honourable Speaker for abnegating from his previously held aforesaid position.
Further, I have observed that the matters slated to be considered at the captioned meeting, expressly touch and concern the Honourable Clement J. Rohee, MP, Minister of Home Affairs. As you are aware, Minister Rohee is a Member of the said Committee of Privileges. In consequence thereof, I am of the considered view that the process which is scheduled to be embarked upon and indeed its eventual outcome, will be infected with the fatal virus of bias and accordingly, will be violative of the rules of natural justice, will be unlawful, null, void and of no effect.
As a result, I have advised the Honourable Member to resign from the said Committee. A copy of his resignation letter will be forwarded to you. In relation thereto, I respectfully suggest that a meeting of the Committee of Selection be summoned to consider a replacement for Minister Rohee for the Committee of Privileges in respect of the matters at hand.
Significantly, despite numerous public utterances on the issue from both the Speaker and the Parliamentary Opposition, I am yet to hear any clear and definitive statement which would tend to suggest that they are prepared to comply with the clear and unambiguous pronouncements of the Honourable Chief Justice in relation to Minister Rohee’s right to speak in the National Assembly.
I set out hereunder, for clarity, a few of those pronouncements.
The Chief Justice ruled that the Constitution confers an undoubted right upon every elected member of the National Assembly to speak on any matter in the National Assembly. In his own words, the Learned Chief Justice at page 27 “it is the view of this court that Mr. Rohee’s right to speak in the National Assembly derives from his office as a member of the National Assembly and not from his office as an executive Minister. Thus, his right as an elected member of the National Assembly must be concomitant with his constitutional duty to speak for and to represent his electors in the National Assembly who, in turn, have a concomitant right to be so represented”
As regards the No Confidence Motion passed by the Opposition in the Parliament, the Learned Chief Justice ruled at page 23 to 24 of the Judgement that “the issue in this matter is not at all whether the National Assembly has confidence in Mr. Rohee as Minister of Home Affairs but rather is whether the Speaker has acted (and may further act) unconstitutionally or illegally in prohibiting him from speaking or making presentations in the National Assembly for reason of that expression of no confidence. Assuming for the purpose of analysis that Mr. Rohee was not an executive Minister but was the holder of a seat in the National Assembly (like all Opposition members of the National Assembly), would his office of Minster render him more vulnerable to a prohibition against speaking than those members of the National Assembly who had no such Ministerial office? It is indeed difficult to see how such a question can be answered in the affirmative. It is indeed difficult to see how, in the face of the doctrine of separation of powers, the Speaker can prohibit a member (particularly an elected member) from speaking or making a presentation in that Assembly on account of the absence of confidence of the majority of the members of the Assembly in that person qua an executive Minister when he sits in the Assembly not qua Minister of the Government but qua member of the National Assembly.”
And at page 32, the Chief Justice stated “it behoves the Speaker and indeed the National Assembly as a whole to respect not only the finding of the court for reason of its finality but also the constitutional right of Mr. Rohee to represent his electors and their constitutional right to be represented by him in the National Assembly.”
The aforesaid constitute clear pronouncements on matters of law by a Court of Law which, as the Chief Justice opined in his written judgement, “only the Court can speak with finality on a legal question or issue.” The Court has done so. There seems to be a marked reluctance to respect the Court’s pronouncements.
I am therefore impelled to the view that a decision now for the Privileges Committee to consider the issues slated for consideration is one which is designed to circumvent, ignore and disregard the pronouncements of the Honourable Chief Justice and one that is contaminated with ulterior motives.
In the circumstance and for the reasons adumbrated above, I request that the captioned meeting be either aborted permanently or adjourned indefinitely.
I solicit your most magnanimous consideration.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP
Hon. Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs