The Opposition party, A Partnership for National Unity issued a call on Tuesday for the Clerk of the National Assembly to fulfill his constitutional duties and send four recent Bills passed by the National Assembly to the President for his assent.
In a statement the APNU said the Clerk of the National Assembly needs to fulfill the obligations of his office by sending four bills – the Local Government Commission Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill and the Fiscal Transfers Bill – to the President for his assent.
The APNU noted that the bills were passed by the National Assembly and were due to be presented to the President in accordance with the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.
“APNU refers to Article 170 (2) of the Constitution which provides that, “When a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.” APNU refers, also, to Article 170 (3) which provides, “Where the President withholds his assent to a Bill, he shall return it to the Speaker within twenty-one days of the date when it was presented to him for assent with a message stating the reasons why he has withheld his assent”, the party statement noted.
According to the party, it recognises that “these articles do not state who has the responsibility for presenting the said Bills to the President and that, until the President is presented with the Bills, the prescribed time cannot be said to have elapsed. Standing Order (S O) 67 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, nevertheless, clearly reposes responsibility for the presentation of the said Bills to the President in the Clerk of the National Assembly.”
The Opposition parties in Parliament have been complaining about the President’s non assent to a number of Bills passed by the National Assembly. The administration has been dodging the issue by saying the Bills have not yet found their way on the desk of the Head of State. Last week, the People’s Progressive Party stated that the Opposition could move to the Courts if they continue to have concerns over the issue.
The APNU is now focusing its attention on the Clerk of the National Assembly and his responsibilities when it comes to sending the Bills to the President. The party said “Standing Order 67 prescribes that, “Every Bill passed by the Assembly shall remain in the custody of the Clerk who shall, subject to Article 164 of the Constitution, at the earliest opportunity, submit the Bill to the President for his or her assent.”The words “shall remain in the custody of the Clerk” are mandatory.”
The four Local Government Bills were passed in the National Assembly on 7th August, 2013 and are still to be signed into law by the President, one month later. The Local Government Bills are expected to set the stage for the hosting of local government elections in Guyana. The last time Guyana held local government elections was in 1994.
The APNU said it considers that “it would constitute a breach of the duty and an abdication of the specific responsibility of the Clerk of the National Assembly for the said Bills to be submitted to the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs after their passage by the National Assembly as there is no provision in the Constitution or Standing Orders authorising such a procedure.”