Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang on Wednesday declared that the National Assembly through the Committee of Supply “acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally in purporting to reduce or cut the estimates of expenditure of the Minister of Finance for the financial year 2012.”
The ruling indicates that the National Assembly could either give or withhold approval to sections of the budget or the entire budget but cannot cut any section of the budget.
The Opposition parties have used their majority in the National Assembly over the past two years to reduce the allocations to a number of Government agencies. The budget for the state-owned National Communications Network and the Government Information Agency were both reduced to $1.
Legal sources have pointed out that the ruling by the Chief Justice clearly points out that what the National Assembly would have to do is withhold the entire budget for those agencies or approve the entire budget, not reduce any part of it.
The Government of Guyana had moved to the courts against the National Assembly over the budget cuts. The Finance Minister and the Opposition Leader who were both named in the court action were both prevented from taking part in the case after the Chief Justice ruled that they are both covered by parliamentary immunity. Attorneys for the Opposition Leader believed he should have been able to be represented in the matter.
The other parties named in the court case have 14 days to appeal the Chief Justice’s ruling.