Four months after the contentious sitting of the National, where the Government and Opposition went head-to-head in the National Assembly over the Natural Resource Fund Bill, Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones and Trade Unionist, N0rris Witter, have approached the High Court, seeking several declarations including a declaration which seeks to nullify the conduct of the proceedings of the National Assembly.
Jones and Witter, through their Attorneys, Roysdale Forde and Selwyn Pieters are contending that the proceedings of the National Assembly on December 29, 2021 in the absence of the Mace is ultra vires of the Constitution, Common Law, the constitutional values of the Rule of Law, and is also in contention with the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.
The petitioners contend that the government has failed to hold meaningful consultations even though it was mandated to so and rushed through with the Bill.
It was recalled, that Mr. Witter along with 63 other persons had submitted a motion to the National Assembly to put a hold on the debate until consultations were held.
As a result, the High Court is also being asked to declare that the decision of the Speaker of the National Assembly to permit the debate and or passage of Natural Resource Fund Bill No. 20 of 2021 without any consideration of the petition submitted by the Second Named Applicant and certain other Citizens prior to the passage of the Natural Resource Fund Bill No. 20 of 2021.
It is being argued that such oversight by the Speaker constitutes a breach of the Second the Applicant’s fundamental human right to political participation which encapsulates the opportunity to take part in the conduct of public affairs of Guyana which is guaranteed by Article 13 and or 154A of the Constitution and Article 25 of the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.
“A Declaration that the decision of the Speaker to permit and allow the passage of the Natural Resource Fund Bill No. 20 of 2021 without affording or permitting any Member of the Opposition, inclusive of the First Named Applicant to participate in the debate on the aforesaid Bill is ultra vires the Constitution, Common Law, the constitutional values of the Rule of Law, Democracy, and Inclusive Governance, unwritten constitutional principles of the Rule of Law, and the Standing Orders of the National Assembly,” the applicants asked the court.
Further, the applicants are seeking an Order declaring that all actions taken by anyone, including the Minister of Finance, upon the date the Act came into force and pursuant to the Natural Resource Fund Act, Act No. 19 of 2021, is null and void and to be of no force and effect; as well as an Order declaring that any constitution of any Board under the Natural Resources Fund Act No.19 of 2021 is null and void and to be of no legal effect.
During the sitting of the Assembly, the Speaker’s mace was snatched out of its place by Opposition Member Annette Ferguson. The sitting continued with a miniature replica of the original mace being used.