By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Despite a ruling handed down by Chief Justice Ian Chang on Wednesday, January 29 which states that the Opposition has no power to cut budgetary estimates, Opposition Member of Parliament and Attorney-at-Law, Basil Williams is maintaining that power does reside with the opposition to reduce budgetary estimates and skeptically warned of cuts to the upcoming 2014 National Budget.
Williams said the opposition’s position regarding cutting the budget has not changed, regardless of what the CJ has decided. The possibility is that the ruling could be side stepped by the Opposition, who may go ahead and reduce 2014 budgetary estimates as they have done for the last two years.
The APNU MP’s grievances however lay primarily in the fact that opposition Leader David Granger was struck out from the case by the CJ and despite moves to appeal that decision in the Court of Appeal, what appears to be a final decision on the matter was handed down.
“Having struck out the Leader of the Opposition as a defendant without giving him a hearing, the Chief Justice has now refused to let the law take its course in the Appellate Courts and has rushed to finish the case before the ruling of the full court on the opposition’s leader’s application for leave to appeal its decision” Williams told reporters during a news conference.
Williams said he was surprise to learn that the CJ had gone ahead and refused to await the outcome of proceedings in the Higher Courts and made a ruling.
“APNU, because of the importance of the issue for Guyana registers its condemnation of the Chief Justice’s actions… his action is a recipe for disaster.”
When asked whether he felt the CJ was siding or favored the incumbent, Williams refused to comment but maintained that his party will go as far as the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to prove its case.
Williams remains confident that the budget estimates can be cut according to the Standing Orders of the National Assembly and also remains resolute in his belief that Standing Orders are Laws. Moreover, Williams believes parliament is independent and is not subject to the supervision of the Courts.
These claims by Williams run counter to the ruling of the CJ which states firstly that Standing Orders are not laws and that while the Court does not have a supervisory position over the National Assembly it can strike down legislation on the ground of unconstitutionality.
The Opposition MP believes that the ruling is to block the motion of censure which the opposition had promise to bring before the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh.
“It will come and those it thinks it can’t come anymore it’s a useless thought.”
Chang in his ruling stated that the National Assembly can only approve or disapprove the entire budget or sections therein and has deemed the cutting of the National 2012 Budget as unlawful.
According to Chang, the power to approve or disapprove the estimates simply means that it is conferred with a ‘gate keeping’ function by the constitution and does not imply or involve a power to amend the estimates presented by the Executive Minister.
Attorney-at-Law and Leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan have since noted his intention to appeal the Chief Justice’s decision.
In fact the Chief Justice had said to Ramjattan at the end of his ruling “so there you have it Mr. Ramjattan, you can go and appeal it now because I know you were waiting to do that.”
The Opposition MP believes there are errors in the ruling and maintains that the Opposition has the right under the law to amend budgetary estimates. The Guyana Government had taken the Opposition to court following the slashing of the 2012 National Budget by $20.9 billion.