Nandlall asks High Court to dismiss case challenging passage of NRF Act

Attorney General Anil Nandlall flanked by Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs (left) and Speaker Manzoor Nadir (right)

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC has asked the Demerara High Court to dismiss the case filed by Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones and Trade Unionist Norris Witter which challenges the December 2021 passage of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Bill.

Before Justice Navindra Singh, the Opposition Chief Whip and Witter argue that due to the absence of the parliamentary Mace—the most significant symbol in the National Assembly and some members not seated, the Bill cannot be viewed as being lawfully passed.

During a brief hearing Friday morning, Justice Singh fixed timelines for the parties to file submissions and replies.

He will hear oral arguments on September 12. The Attorney General, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir, and Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs, have been listed as respondents in the matter.

On the night of December 29, 2021, Members of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition had dislodged the Mace from its position at the House Clerk’s desk in an attempt to prevent the Bill from being passed.

But despite the Opposition’s protest and its mounting calls for the Bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee, the Government went ahead and passed it.

Speaker Nadir is, however, adamant that the Bill was lawfully passed, noting that a replica Mace was in place. He had explained that almost all parliaments in the Westminster System have two Maces in case one is not being found or is stolen.

In his Affidavit in Defence, Nandlall contends that the action is an abuse of the court process and without any legal basis. In light of this, he has urged the court to dismiss it.

Since the passage of the legislature last December, the Government has gone on to establish the Natural Resource Fund Board.

Earlier this week, the Finance Minister announced the Government’s withdrawal of
$41.7 billion from the Natural Resource Fund.

This sum which was taken out following parliamentary approval has been transferred to the Consolidated Fund to finance national development priorities, Dr. Singh noted.