“I believe the honourable Prime Minister is squatting in the House! It says, as part of our Constitution, ‘During any period when the Minister is performing the functions of the office of the President, his or her seat in the National Assembly shall be regarded as vacant.”
Those were the words of Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who outlined that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s continued presence in the National Assembly is in violation of the constitution, and will not go unchallenged.
His contention arose from the fact that while President David Granger is away in Cuba seeking treatment for non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, the task of acting President has fallen to Nagamootoo.
On the final day of budget debates, Jagdeo zeroed in on the matter during his contribution to the debates. He cited Article 178 (4) of the Constitution, which states that any Minister performing the functions of the office of the President has to vacate his seat in the National Assembly during that period.
Article 178 (4) goes on to state that the seat of the acting President “may be temporarily filled in accordance with any provision made under article 160 (3). At the expiration of the period, the person temporarily filling the seat shall vacate it, and the seat shall thereupon be resumed by the Minister.”
The perusal of the estimates of Budget 2019 begins today. The Ministry of the Presidency is the first Ministry to be examined, followed by the Office of the Prime Minister. And Jagdeo made it clear that his party will not look the other way should Nagamootoo, who is a lawyer by profession, show up in the chambers.
“In accordance with these provisions of the Constitution, we have had this Prime Minister come here over and over when he is acting as President, in violation of our Constitution, squatting in the Parliament contrary to the practise of the past; and we have allowed this to happen,” Jagdeo said.
“We plan, Mr Speaker, to raise this on Monday when we come to consider the estimates. His presence will not be missed in the House. I’m sure they can find another member of the APNU side to perform the functions (of Leader of Government business),” Jagdeo said.