Chairman of the Alliance for Change, Khemraj Ramjattan and the Attorney General Anil Nandlall are at opposing poles on the non-assent of the Bill.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall said that the amendment which was made to the Local Government Bill in the National Assembly, was not assented to by President Donald Ramotar because it was unconstitutional.
Nandlall was speaking at a press conference at Freedom House when he articulated that the amendments which the joint opposition made in the National Assembly to one of three Local Government Bills had essentially changed the functionality and made deficient the Bill hence the reason for the President’s non assent.
According to Nandlall, “President Ramotar assented to three of the Local Government Bills on the 28th of October 2013. On that date, his Excellency exercising the powers conferred on him by article 170 (3) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana withheld his assent for the Local Government Amendment Bill of 2012.
“On the 14th of November 2013 the President returned the Bill to the Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly, with a message stating the reasons for withholding assent pursuant to the relevant provisions on the constitution.”
The Attorney General said that when the Bill was in the Special Select Committee of the National Assembly, changes were made by the Joint Opposition (A Partnership of National Unity APNU and Alliance for Change AFC) that were objected to by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C). Their objection, he said, was however rejected since the joint opposition has a majority vote that the “opposition enjoyed in the committee.”
According to Nandlall, the changes made by the joint opposition to the Bill rendered the latter “constitutionally and institutionally defective and deficient.”
Nandlall added that the several changes made by the joint opposition, were intended to “confer upon the Local Government Commission powers duties and responsibilities beyond and in excess of those granted to the Local Government Commission by Article 78A of the Constitution.”
He said that the changes made by the joint opposition were in contravention of the Constitution, as well as outside the jurisdiction of the Constitution. Nandlall said that the changes made are “null, void and of no effect.” “Many clauses which were contained in the Bill originally tabled by the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development were deleted by the joint opposition in the Special Committee without any adequate insertions made to fill the void. As a consequence, there are now
several structural and institutional deficiencies in the functional architecture of the Local Government structure created by the said bill” Nandlall expressed.
Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan, said, “The Constitutional provision, Article 78A, was deliberately expansive. The framers formulated it the way it is, in 2001, for the purpose of taking away the Ministerial powers and discretions under the existing regime concerning, (and I emphasise this), all matters related to the regulation of Local Government organs and the staffing of the organs and transferring these powers to a Local Government Commission.
This according to Ramjattan was the same reasoning behind the new provisions dealing with the Procurement Commission and the amendments concerning the Elections Commission.
“It was the PPP Government in the 2000/2001 constitutional reform period which had moved these reforms and loudly praised itself then that the politicised hand of Ministers and the Executive branch in relation to matters dealing with local governance, procurement and elections will be shifted to these constitutionally created bodies” said Ramjattan.
According to Ramjattan, what is occurring at present is a situation where the Attorney General is retracting the original intent of the reforms by misreading and misunderstanding the said provisions.
“By a methodology that is empty of any understanding of the text and context of these provisions, he pronounces like a high priest on the unconstitutionality of every piece of legislation that seeks to limit Ministerial and Executive powers and discretions as consensually agreed to by all Parliamentarians in the 2000/2001 reform era.”
Ramjattan said that the consequences of such actions are degrading the reforms of a decade ago and will lead to an explosive situation which he said was the cause for the reforms for that period in the first place and cautioned that history should not repeat itself since the situation has the propensity to envelop everyone.
“That 4th Local Government Bill, which the [Attorney General] AG has advised the President not to assent to, is not unconstitutional! The cry of unconstitutionality is but only a cover to hide the PPP Government’s control.
“It wants its Minister to still control a number of matters, just like it now wants to have a no-objection in relation to procurement” said Ramjattan.
He added that “Nandlall has articulated not one single argument to reveal which provision of that Bill has derogated from Article 78A or any provision of the Constitution.”
“In view now that the AFC will be butting a brick wall in an attempt to get this Bill assented to, and in view that the Party wants Local Government elections as early as possible, there is every indication that it will have to go into the Local Government Elections without this the fourth Bill.
“Three-quarters of a loaf is better than none!”
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