Dec 10, 2018 News
– Former Speaker Ralph Ramkarran
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo is not powerless and therefore cannot blame the Parliamentary Committee for the delays in Constitutional Reform.
This is the position held by Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran.
In one of his recent columns on the matter, Ramkarran stated that under the Constitution of Guyana, Nagamootoo as the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly has the authority to instruct the Attorney General, (AG) Basil Williams to convene a meeting of committee to deal with the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill, which is essential to the process of constitutional reform.
Prime Minister Nagamootoo had previously blamed the committee tasked with considering the Bill for the delays.
Nagamootoo had stated that the Bill was referred to the Bipartisan Parliamentary Committee two years ago but the Committee has only met once.
“They were supposed to look at it and report back to the National Assembly. I don’t know where the Bill is; I have asked the Attorney General and he said that the Committee met once.
“I have never heard any calls, not even from the Opposition, for this committee to meet and without the Commission, there can be no Constitutional Reform,” Nagamootoo had said.
However, in his opinion piece over the weekend, Ramkarran noted that if a Bill in the PM’s name is before the Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform, and there is a delay in considering it, Nagamootoo cannot pass the buck.
“He cannot blame the Committee. As Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business, he has the authority to direct AG Basil Williams to convene a meeting of the Committee to consider the Bill.
If he needs help, the Prime Minister can invoke the assistance of the Cabinet or of the President. If the Prime Minister is unwilling to take such steps, he has to take responsibility, rather than appealing to the public for understanding,” Ramkarran asserted
Additionally, the writer reminded that the coalition government’s core manifesto proposals were for constitutional reform. Hence, Ramkarran said that Nagamootoo explanation can be viewed as nothing but an attempt to shelf his responsibility.
Although Government has been widely criticized for the delays in bringing about Constitutional Reform, Nagamootoo had blamed the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reform for the holdup.
“There is a Standing Committee established under the Constitution. It is a bipartisan committee that has both members of the Government and the Opposition members including the current Attorney General and the former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.
I have asked the government to allocate funds just in case we get the Bill. Last year we gave back about $60M because we did not make any progress on Constitutional Reform.
This year I have asked for a reduced sum and I am hoping that we have the bill passed,” Nagamootoo said.
Pursuant to Article 119A of the Constitution, there shall be appointed a Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform in the National Assembly for the purpose of continually reviewing the effectiveness of the working of the Constitution and making periodic reports there on to the National Assembly, with proposal for reform as necessary.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform consists of six members (nominated by the Committee of Selection).
Among other duties, the Committee is tasked with the aid of other persons of appropriate expertise on the issue of constitutional reform.
In his Budget speech, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan said that Constitutional Reform remains a mandate and promise that the Coalition Government is keen to fulfill, within a system of participatory democracy.
“Government remains hopeful that the bi-partisan Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform will conclude its review of the Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission Bill, which was referred to it by the National Assembly over a year ago.
“Our Government welcomes the constructive scrutiny that the Members of this Committee will no doubt exercise in their rigorous examination of the Bill, as we collectively recognize the need to adapt our Constitution to reflect our evolution as a democracy.”
Kaieteur News understands that the Committee has since scheduled another meeting.
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