High Court dismisses Opposition’s challenge to passage of NRF Bill

High Court dismisses Opposition’s challenge to passage of NRF Bill

-by Svetlana Marshall-

An attempt by the Opposition to invalidate the passage of the Natural Resource Fund Bill over the absence of the Mace in the National Assembly failed on Monday, with High Court Judge, Navindra Singh ruling that the presence, absence or use of the Mace in the National Assembly is not provided for in the Constitution or the Laws of Guyana.

  In his written judgement, Justice Singh said it is clear from the evidence that the mace is nothing more than a relic intended only to be a symbolic representation in the National Assembly.

 “It is illogical to believe that the presence or absence of a length of metal can determine the legitimacy of acts done by persons elected by the citizens of the country pursuant to their elected duties,” Justice Singh reasoned.

It was the Opposition Members, who in an attempt to block the passage of the Natural Resource Fund Bill in the National Assembly, uprooted the mace from the Parliamentary Chambers on December 29, 2021. The bill was, nonetheless, passed with the Speaker, Manzoor Nadir, resorting to the use of a replica of the official Mace. It was against that background that the Opposition, through its Chief Whip, Christopher Jones moved to the Court together with Trade Unionist, Norris Witter to challenge the Bill’s passage.

On the corridors of the High Court today, the Opposition’s lead attorney, Senior Counsel, Roysdale Forde said he was disappointed with the ruling.

“We are quite disappointed with the Judge’s ruling, but as you know we have not had a chance to hear the reasons. We were just given a copy of the judgment but this case deals with a number of very important constitutional issues,” Mr Forde told reporters.

But Attorney General, Anil Nandlall told reporters that the ruling comes as no surprise. He said the records would show that the Opposition, in opposing the Natural Resource Fund Bill, “broke” the mace while behaving in a “riotous, vulgar and reprehensible” manner, before storming out of the National Assembly. He said to compound the situation, it then turned to the Court to justify its behaviour.

“So, they came here and asked the court, essentially, to confirm their vulgarity. Now, of course, they did not advance much legal arguments because hardly, they exist any. The court rejected all their arguments and upheld our submissions. Firstly, mace or absence of mace has nothing to do with the legislative power of the Parliament to make laws. Parliament is driven by the elected officials, who are there elected by the people, and are governed by the Constitution,” the Attorney General said.

Justice Singh, in his ruling, also considered several other issues, including that of consultation with stakeholders and the citizenry by the National Assembly before legislation is enacted.

After closely examining the Constitution, the High Court Judge found that the Constitution does not require or mandate the National Assembly to engage in consultation with stakeholders and citizens before enacting legislation.

Weighing in on this on aspect of the ruling, the Attorney General said though the issue was brought to the fore by the Opposition, it was a non-issue, since, according to him, the people were consulted.

“We contended that yes, there was consultation, widespread consultation, in the form of, the time that we spent in the Opposition, five years, then our manifesto, which was widely distributed and discussed across the country, elements of the Natural Resource Fund Bill, are contained in our manifesto but most importantly, on the floor, where there is he debate provided for, that constitutes consultation too but they did not take the opportunity to debate it,” he said.

The Court also found that the Speaker did not deny any member of the Opposition the opportunity to participate in the debate on the Natural Resource Fund Bill.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the Opposition is now contemplating its next move.

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