Opposition challenge of Parliamentary Secretary appointments a ‘waste of court’s time’ -AG Nandlall

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall SC says the Opposition’s challenge to the appointment of the two Parliamentary Secretaries is a waste of the court’s time. The Attorney General made this statement in an invited comment on the side-lines of an event on Saturday.

Opposition Chief Whip, Hon. Christopher Jones last December approached the High Court in an attempt to have Parliamentary Secretaries Hon. Sarah Browne and Hon. Vikash Ramkissoon removed from the National Assembly. The two are attached to the Ministries of Amerindian Affairs and Agriculture, respectively.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall SC

The AG said the Opposition is contending that because the Parliamentary Secretaries are on the List of Candidates for the PPP/C for the elections, they cannot be appointed. However, he said the Parliamentary Secretaries were legally appointed by President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali.

“When one examines closely the provisions in relation to parliamentary secretaries, they say very clearly that a person can be on the List or not be on the List and still be appointed. So, in my view, the case is a complete waste of the court’s time and I hope that the court dismisses it shortly.”

AG Nandlall, who is listed as a respondent, recently filed submissions in response to the matter. In his submission, he pointed out that Article 186 of the Constitution makes the Opposition’s case baseless.

Subsection I of the Article states that “Parliamentary Secretaries may be appointed from among persons who are elected members of the National Assembly or are qualified to be elected as such members.”

Further, Subsection III of the same Article states that “a Parliamentary Secretary who was not an elected member of the Assembly at the time of his appointment shall (unless he becomes such a member) be a member of the Assembly by virtue of holding the Office of Parliamentary Secretary but shall not vote in the Assembly.”

In his submission, AG Nandlall states that “in light of the foregoing, it is respectfully submitted that the claim made by the Applicant is misconceived because the framers of our Constitution always contemplated that Parliamentary Secretaries could be appointed from among the elected Members of the National Assembly and non-elected Members   of the National Assembly (that is persons qualified to be elected).”

The Attorney General said the Opposition intends to use the case where former Ministers Winston Felix and Keith Scott were ousted from the National Assembly for being Technocrat Ministers.  He said the two cases are not the same as they are governed by different articles of the Constitution.

Later Chief Justice Ian Chang who handed down the ruling in the case in 2016 had said the former ministers could not sit in the National Assembly as Technocrat Ministers since they were on the Coalition’s List of Candidates as Elected Members.

“They are using that as a precedent, but there is a marked difference in the Constitution between Technocrat Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. They are not the same. The same constitutional requirement does not apply, the same provisions of the Constitution do not apply. One is Government by one set of provisions in the Constitution and the other is governed by another set of provisions,” the Attorney General explained.

MP Jones is being represented by Attorneys-at-law and MPs Hon. Roysdale Forde, Hon. Geeta Chandan-Edmond, Hon. Amanza Walton-Desir, Hon. Raphael Trotman, Mr. Mayo Robertson, Ms. Olayne Joseph and Mr. Darren Wade.

AG Nandlall, Ms. Browne, Mr. Ramkissoon and Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Manzoor Nadir are all listed as respondents.