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|Nandlall dismisses Ramjattan’s constitution crisis claim|
|Sunday, 24 June 2012 20:46|
MINISTER of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall has dismissed claims by Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan that the possibility of the President not assenting to bills put forward by the opposition could create a constitutional crisis.
Ramjattan also stated that such a position by the President would demonstrate contempt and disdain for the National Assembly, which is tantamount to holding the National Assembly hostage.
In an interview with the media on Friday last Nandlall explained that Ramjattan is confusing the National Assembly with Parliament, the National assembly is but only a component of Parliament which consists of the National Assembly and the President, so there cannot be any law which can be made without presidential assent.
He believes that the framers of the constitution obviously contemplated a situation where the National Assembly and the President would be complicit in their action and not consistent, so the law -making process requires complicity from both components of Parliament, (National Assembly and the President).
It is not a mystery how laws are passed in this country; the constitution is the document which prescribes how laws are made and how laws are passed in Guyana, Article 65 of the Constitution says “subject to the provision of this Constitution, Parliament may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Guyana”, the Attorney General said.
He quoted article 170 of the constitution which tells how the President can treat a bill which emerges from the National Assembly : “Subject to the provision of article 164 the power of Parliament to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President.” This shows that there is a two pronged process; it must be passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President; he elucidated that it does not mean that once it is passed by the National Assembly that ineluctably it must be assented to by the President.
When a bill is presented to the President for his assent, he shall signify that he assent or withhold assent, he said.
He said that which Ramjattan is describing as constitutional crisis is expressly provided for in the constitution of Guyana by article 170, which says clearly that the President can either assent or refuse to assent.
He added that furthermore the constitution states that “Where the President withholds his assent to a bill he shall return it to the Speaker within 21 days of the date when it was presented to him for his assent with a message stating the reason why he has withheld his assent.”
He explained that the Constitution stipulates that where a bill is returned, it shall not again be presented to the President for assent unless within six months of the bill being so returned upon a motion supported by the vote of not less than two thirds of the elected members of the National Assembly.
He deemed Ramjattan pronouncements as simplistic and superficial; adding that they are expressed without any regard for the constitutional provision which governs the issue.
Nandlall opined that it is highly irresponsible and reckless for a political party to pronounce on such important issue without taking into account the fact that the Constitution has express provision dealing with that issue and without taking into account those express provision of the constitution.
Meanwhile, with regards to Speaker of the House Raphael Trotman’s statement that President Ramotar’s intention not to assent to opposition bills was out of “frustration and bad advice.” Nandlall in his response noted that “politicians, especially those who are lawyers must ensure that they consult the relevant laws and the constitution before they make these grand pronouncements.”
Nandlall went on to explain, that, the National Assembly assuming that it wants to pass a law must ensure that that law is in keeping with and it is consistent with the executive policy on that particular issue to which the law relates.
“Therefore it would be irresponsible for a National Assembly to pass a law which would collide with executive policy and programs which the executive is pursuing, as it is the responsibility of the executive to craft, implement and promulgate and administer policy, therefore you cannot have laws that will be contradictory of those policies, and therefore, a National Assembly must ensure laws are promulgated through their process which are consistent with the government’s policies, that is why the constitution speaks to parliament’s duty to make law, order and good government of Guyana,” Nandlall contended.
“You cannot pilot a bill through the National Assembly that is inconsistent with the state of Guyana’s international obligation under treaty, a President would be obliged in those circumstances to reject and to withhold in a sense to a type of legislation that will put us in breach of our international obligation,” Nandlall explained.
According to him, the National Assembly cannot pilot a bill which the executive cannot enforce and administer. It is the responsibility of the executive to enforce the laws and to administer the laws of the state and therefore the President would be proper in refusing his assent to a law which he believes the executive cannot enforce and administer.
He believes that those are some of the reasons why the Constitution has resided in the President a power not to assent to laws. “The President is not a puppet of the National Assembly, has a clearly defined and delineated role to play in relation to the assent of bills, “the Attorney General asserted.
The Attorney General emphasised that the fact that a bill is presented to him for his assent does not mean that he must robotically give his assent; he believes that Ramjattan has failed to consider such fact.
“If the National Assembly pilots a state bill using their majority in which the executive has no input and to which the government side of the bench in Parliament is opposed, because the executive is not in a position to enforce or administer the law, or it is inconsistent with government policies on the issues, then the President would be obliged in those circumstances to withhold his assent as the constitution permits him to do,” Nandlall said
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