Challenge to NRF Act legality without merit – AG Nandlall

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, S.C, M.P, has asked the High Court to throw out the challenge to the legality of the Natural Resources Fund (NRF) Act brought by Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones.

He made the request during the first hearing of the matter before Justice Navindra Singh on Friday. 

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, S.C.

The Attorney General said the affidavit filed by the Opposition is an abuse of the process of the court, as the challenge to the Act is without basis or merit.

The Opposition is asking the court to find the legislation unconstitutional, as there was no consultation for the formulation of the Act.

Rubbishing the claim, government is contending that Parliament’s legislative power does not require consultation for the purpose of legislation.

Minister Nandlall said the only conditionality associated with law making is that it must be consistent with the constitution.

Nevertheless, he highlighted that while in opposition, the now government held consultations throughout the country. The elements of the law, he said, were explained in the PPP/C’s manifesto and was presented alongside the affidavit to the court.

“It is that manifesto upon which we campaigned for the 2020 elections and upon which we were elected. That campaign consisted of hundreds of public meetings, nine national rallies and thousands of smaller meetings across the length and breadth of Guyana. If that does not constitute consultation, well then, I don’t know what else does because it is in those meetings that every aspect of our manifesto would have been discussed and consulted upon,” he stated.

The opposition is also claiming that the mace must be in place for law to be validly passed in the National Assembly. The Attorney General said there is also no conditionality that says the mace must be in place before a law is made.

“In other words, parliament’s law-making power has nothing to do with a mace being in place or a mace not being in place or a right mace being in place or a wrong mace being in place. Those are not things that affect the law-making powers of a parliament. In any event, the standing orders themselves do not mention a mace. The word mace is not even in the standing order. So, the argument that the mace was not in place or the right mace was not in place is a completely unmeritorious and specious argument,” Minister Nandlall relayed.

The Attorney General has also rubbished claims by the opposition that members were not given the opportunity to speak on the NRF Bill. That claim, the Attorney General said is erroneous and fundamentally flawed.

“Fortunately, we saw it and we have it on video. They prevented the minister from speaking in the most vulgar and riotous manner. They blew whistles, they chanted, they descended into the well of the parliament, they were shouting loudly, they grabbed the mace, they tried to pull it away, they broke it in the process, one of them ran into the control room and disconnected the mic, all of that is in the affidavit and then they walked out of the parliament.”

Last month,Jones and trade unionist Norris Witter moved to the high court to challenge the legality of the NRF Act through Attorneys Roysdale Forde, S.C and Selwyn Pieters.

The Attorney General, Parliament Office, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir and Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs are listed as respondents.

During the hearing on Friday, Justice Singh requested submissions of affidavits from the applicants and respondents. He also granted an application brought by Attorneys Kamal Ramkarran and Sase Gunraj for an extension to allow Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir to file his affidavit of defence.

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