Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall has accused the David Granger-led Administration of practising “constitutional heresy” by still holding Cabinet meetings but under a different name while ignoring the recent ruling by acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George.
Nandlall said that in her ruling, the CJ stated clearly that in accordance with the Constitution and upon the successful passage of the no-confidence motion, on December 21, 2018, the President (David Granger), as well as the Cabinet, was taken to have resigned.
“To circumvent the CJ’s ruling and to subvert the express language of the Constitution, the Government continues to meet and make decisions, but they are not calling those meetings Cabinet, but a ‘Ministerial Plenary and the Secretary to this extra-constitutional body who used to be the Secretary to the Cabinet (Edward Persico), that person is now called Secretary to the plenary,” he explained.
This move, according to Nandlall, highlights how Government is making a mockery of both the acting CJ’s decision, as well as the express provisions of the Constitution. He reminded that the Constitution provided for an institution called Cabinet and that institution is to advise the President on the direction in which the Government should go policy-wise and in accordance with good governance.
He argued, “Cabinet has been disbanded so to speak by the CJ’s ruling and by the express language of provision of the Constitution by the passage of the no-confidence motion. You can’t concoct another agency calling it a name and imbuing it with the power to perform the functions that Cabinet used to be performing. I’ve never heard anything like this, nowhere in the Caribbean or Commonwealth…”
The former AG also described the situation as a constitutional travesty.
Meanwhile, in making reference to statements made by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, where he told the press that the plenary of Ministers had the same powers as Cabinet, Nandlall said he disagreed with that reasoning.
“Where did they get that from? Where did the plenary of Cabinet Ministers, whatever that amorphous organisation is, is not provided anywhere in the laws. The Constitution creates a Cabinet and it ascribes to Cabinet the functional responsibilities that Cabinet is to perform,” he added.
Again, Nandlall said that it could only be seen as constitutional heresy at its worst. His reasoning for this is that all of the decisions which are now being made are unconstitutional and illegal. “At some time they will have to set aside that as illegal and unlawful, because it is,” he stated.
Minister Harmon was the first to reveal this information, stating that the plenary of ministers have met as a collective to note contracts from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) and give approval for various official government appointments.
The Minister revealed that the plenary approved diplomatic relations with San Marino, the appointment of a new Indian High Commissioner and a non-resident Ambassador from Kuwait.
The plenary gave its consent for the reconstitution of the National Data Management Authority (NDMA); a Value Added Tax (VAT) Appeal tribunal and also approved the Customs and Trade Single Window System Bill 2019. This Bill, Harmon explained, will pave the way for improved processing of data.
Harmon defended the meeting of the plenary, noting that such meetings were also held last year. The Minister was asked to explain under which law is a plenary of Ministers authorised to meet and ‘note’ contracts.