By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Attorney General Anil Nandlall took just over an hour on Tuesday morning (December 10) arguing his position and that of the Chief Justice Ian Chang to exclude Opposition Leader David Granger from the hearings of the Budget Cuts case, forcing him make an appeal.
Nandlall along with Granger’s Attorney Basil Williams concluded their oral presentations before Justices James Bovell-Drakes and Rishi Persaud.
Nandlall argued that that the Opposition Leader has no place to be present or take part in hearings. He said being a member of the National Assembly, the constitution prohibits any legal proceedings (whether civil or criminal) to be brought against the Leader of the Opposition.
He disagreed with the Opposition Leader’s claim that he has a right to waive his immunity, arguing that it is not immunity but a prohibition.
“The constitution is clear, it prohibit suits against any member of the National Assembly…” It is also not individual but collective, so when an individual relinquishes that protection it can expose all other parliamentarians,” Nandlall said.
He told the Court that legislation has to be passed, amending the current law before this can happen. Nandlall also refuted the opposition’s claim that the Chief Justice’s ruling to exclude the Opposition Leader is a violation of principles of natural justice.
However, Williams is convinced that Nandlall’s argument has not placed any dent in his written submissions or previous arguments.
“If there is no right for the Leader of the Opposition, who is representing the majority of citizens to be heard then so let it be,” Williams said. When questioned of the connotations of this statement, he said he was merely stating his confidence in a win in this case.
He reiterated his belief that the Opposition Leader must be permitted in the case. Williams said that the wording of the constitution makes it clear that Granger can waive his immunity.
The case stands adjourned until December 19, where the Judges will ask questions and seek clarifications on the arguments of both counsel.
Government had taken the Opposition to court following the slashing of the 2012 National Budget by $20.9 billion claiming it was unconstitutional.
On June 19, Chief Justice Ian Chang took the decision to strike out the Opposition Leader as well as Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh as defendants in the 2012 Budget cuts case, on the basis that, as members of Parliament, the constitution provides immunity.
On July 18, 2012, in a preliminary ruling, the Chief Justice had stated that the National Assembly has no power under the Constitution to reduce the National Estimates when they are presented for approval. The ruling stated that in relation to the National Estimates, the National Assembly “performs a gate-keeping function, a power of disapproval is not contemplated by the Constitution.”