Following the ruling by Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman that the Opposition could slice the national budget estimates, the Government rushed before the cameras during a parliamentary break to express their discomfort and frustration with the ruling.
In his ruling, Speaker Trotman said the Constitution of Guyana is the embodiment of the nation’s fundamental principles and the constitution through legislation and standing orders provides for there to be amendments to any bill coming before the house. He cited the constitutions of a number of other Commonwealth nations. He warned however, that the amendments ought to be done responsibly and should not be of a vindictive nature.
The Government through Prime Minister Samuel Hinds initially accepted the ruling but at the press conference called during the break, it appeared otherwise.
Works Minister Robeson Benn said the Opposition’s proposals to cut the budget for some projects under his ministry is clearly an attempt to question the professional competence of those who work for the Ministry. He made specific reference to the Cheddi Jagan Airport expansion project.
The Alliance For Change has listed that project as one of the projects that could face a possible reduction in the funds being allocated.
Minister within the Ministry of Finance Bishop Juan Edghill said the opposition cuts should not be fuelled by “hate”. Edghill said the Oppositions move to cut parts of the budget can only be seen as “infantile behaviour”. He said he wants to know why the Opposition never appealed the Chief Justice’s ruling on last year’s budget cuts.
The ruling by the Chief Justice was not a final ruling and sought to offer advice on a way forward. While the Chief Justice in his ruling outlined why the budget to some constitutional bodies ought not be reduced, he stayed clear of addressing several other agencies and specific projects being undertaken by the Government.
The Attorney General Anil Nandalall said he has since written to the Chief Justice asking for him to make a final ruling.
Speaker Raphael Trotman in his ruling today made it clear that the independence of the National Assembly must not be dismissed. He said in 2012, when there were amendments to the budget estimates and the bill was passed with the amendments “the nation did not fall apart”.
Opposition Leader David Granger, today told the Assembly that the Opposition is still having talks with the President and government. He said it is time to get on with the nation’s business.