May 09, 2013 News Comments Off on Opposition not surprised by Ramotar’s rejection of Bills
Newtown’s law of motion says “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”.
President Donald Ramotar’s refusal to assent to two Opposition Bills passed in the National Assembly earlier in the year, comes as no shocker to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), which is now weighing its options.
This was revealed by APNU’s Parliamentarian Carl Greenidge, who said that the President’s decision is not surprising.
Ramotar’s rejection of the Opposition Bills was announced in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
“The whole point is that the President, having said that he will approve no Bill that does not find favour with the PPP, would always be willing to find excuses however flimsy, and these are, for why he did not sign. The ball is in the court of the National Assembly. What is the point of their meeting? Let the President blow his flute and dance to it himself or dance to the beat of his own drum,” Greenidge said.
In justifying the rejection, Ramotar by way of letter responding to a reminder sent by the Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman, said that the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill and the Former Presidents (Facilities and Other Benefits) Bill were in violation with the Constitution.
In terms of the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill, Ramotar said that it was in violation of Article 171(2) in that it could not be introduced by a private member but rather only with the consent of the Cabinet, “signified by a Minister.”
The Bill passed by the House sought to remove several entities listed as budget agencies under the Act in order to have them draw directly from the Consolidated Fund as constitutional entities.
Additionally, the Opposition in January, by virtue of its one seat majority, passed a Bill to repeal the Former Presidents (Facilities and Benefits) Act of 2009 and put in place a new one which sets caps on the benefits captured under the 2009 legislation.
“The Bill is in violation of the Constitution of Article 142(1) of the Constitution Cap. 1:01 which prohibits the taking away of property compulsorily without the prompt payment of compensation.”
Ramotar also pointed out the Bill’s reference to only “natural children” of the former President being entitled to benefits under the Act as being in violation of the Status of Children Act of 2009 and several articles of the Constitution.
Ramotar cited the legislation’s disqualification of the former President for the benefits if he or she is engaged in business, trade or paid employment or if the individual is cited by any court for any criminal violence as constitutional breaches.
The Opposition Bills were sent to Ramotar to be assented to on February 25. Trotman’s letter, dated May 3, stated that the Constitution mandated the President to return a Bill to the Speaker within “21 days of the date when it was presented to him for assent.”
According to Greenidge, not only is the length of time the President took to respond to the Speaker on the position of the Bills in complete disregard of the deadline but the objections are almost all without merit.
In relation to Ramotar’s comments on the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill, Greenidge said, “If for example, the Parliament authorizes the Minister to change elements of legislation by way of an Order, it is ridiculous to assume that the Parliament is automatically barred from making any change to the legislation itself. That would mean that by virtue of that action it could in future neither amend the legislation nor repeal it.”
He said that this matter was checked with a Senior Counsel and former Judge prior to having the text drafted and neither he nor any colleagues of experience consulted with, gave any credence to that line of argument.
Greenidge, who is a former Finance Minister, said with regards to constitutionality, “The current actions of the Minister of Finance (Dr. Ashni Singh) and the Cabinet as regards the Constitutional Offices including the law Courts and the DPP Chambers, for example, are glaringly unconstitutional. If the President believes in the supremacy of the Constitution and the inappropriateness of the Opposition proposals, he should find his own solution to the problem. But instead of that, he continues to oversee the illegal behaviour and actions being perpetrated by his colleagues.”
He noted that there is nothing wrong with the manner in which the Bills were drafted. They were sent by the Clerk of the Assembly to the Parliamentary Counsel, who as far as he is aware, did not react with any of the comments provided by the President.
“If someone is being paid as the legal draftsman for the National Assembly, and the President is satisfied that the views of his AG (Attorney General), who has no drafting experience should prevail, the draftsman should be sent home. There is no point in retaining him,” Greenidge declared.
Meanwhile, Alliance For Change (AFC)’s leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, said that he personally deems the rejection as “very dangerous”. Ramjattan too is not surprised with Ramotar’s veto.
He added that the Head-of-State made it clear that he will neither work with this Opposition nor be accommodating in this new dispensation.
“Quite frankly, Ramotar has vexed my spirit and provoked it to start thinking of a no-confidence motion against his Government. And to start a process of just not supporting any of the Bills his Government brings to the Assembly, commencing with the Anti-Money Laundering Bill now in Select Committee,” Ramjattan stated.
“He talks about the two Bills being unconstitutional. What bull! He violated the Constitution when he did not deliver his reasons within the 21 days Constitutional limit,” the AFC Leader argued.
Ramjattan asked, “How could he (Ramotar) be so ridiculous in saying to cap the former President’s benefits, so as to exercise restraint on the use of the country’s scarce resources, is unconstitutional? This President, like the last one, has more passion for his pension and other benefits than for the people and good policy. How could he not appreciate that more accountability of his Government through the amendment to the FMAA is good for our democracy?”
“Jagan’s legacy, which he and his Government love to associate with, has gone to the dogs…This is a further vindication of that, and that we are going to spiral down into a potentially explosive condition,” Ramjattan said.
He believes that the Government must sooner understand that there must be multi-party governance in a situation of a minority Government. “But then this President doesn’t know compromise….apparently never heard the word,” Ramjattan said.
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