Is Gov’t fearful of more Budget Cuts? AG urges Speaker to uphold Court ruling

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Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman. [Photo: iNews]
Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman. [Photo: iNews]
[www.inewsguyana.com]In light of the combined Opposition’s intention to continue reducing Guyana’s budget despite a High Court ruling that they cannot do so, Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall is pleading with the Speaker of the National Assembly to play his part in ensuring that this does not happen.

In a statement issued to the media on Thursday, January 30, the AG said, “In these challenging circumstances, the Speaker of the National Assembly [Raphael Trotman] has a pivotal role to play. As the authority in charge of the National Assembly, it is his responsibility to ensure that those under his charge comply with the Constitution as declared and pronounced by its guardian, the Judiciary. From this responsibility he cannot resile. He, himself, is a creature of the Constitution. The power he enjoys is derived from the Constitution. One can only hope that he protects and does not desecrate or aid and abet the desecration of his creator- the Constitution.”

Chief Justice Ian Chang on Wednesday, January 29 ruled that the Opposition has no power to cut budgetary estimates. However, 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.

As such, the AG viewed this stance with “deep regret, and indeed, with profound concern.”

According to Nandlall, these very lawyers [Khemraj Ramjattan and Basil Williams] ought to be the ones advising their clients and other members of their parties, who are not lawyers, what the legal position is when a Court of law has pronounced on a matter of law.

“Of course, I am assuming that they themselves know what the position is. Although, I believe that they ought to know, one can never be sure. The position is, unless and until, a pronouncement made by a Court is set aside by another Court of competent jurisdiction, that pronouncement must be obeyed and respected by all, irrespective how wrong one may feel that pronouncement is.”

The Chief Justice 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.

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