Ramkarran says PM can sit in Parliament while acting as President

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Ralph Ramkarran.
Ralph Ramkarran.

[www.inewsguyana.com] – Former Speaker of Guyana’s National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran says that there are no legal elements that prevent the Prime Minister from sitting in the National Assembly while he is acting in the capacity of President.

Last Tuesday, the People’s Progressive Party raised concerns about Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo acting as President while still being in the National Assembly, contending that it was unconstitutional.

Read Ramkarran’s full blog below.

Mr. Anil Nandlall, former Attorney General and PPP/C Member of the Parliament, and now the guardian of our rights under the Constitution, pronounced ominously on the dire consequences that would befall the nation if the Prime Minister sets foot in the Parliament Chamber, after he is sworn in to perform the duties of the President. He warned: “If he goes back into the Chamber then the entire business of the Parliament will be tainted by an unconstitutionality and that means that the entire proceedings we are embarking upon will be unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void, and of no legal effect.”

The Prime Minister responded in support of his right to sit in Parliament. He argued: “I can only tell you that I am performing the functions of the President; but I am the Prime Minister, an elected Member of Parliament, and I am the Leader of Government Business in the House.” However, he did not return to Parliament.

It is to be noted that the Prime Minister said that he was ‘performing the functions of the President’ while Mr. Nandlall referred to him as ‘acting as President,’ as the press frequently does.

Article 89 of the Constitution states that “there shall be a President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, who shall be Head of State, the supreme executive authority, and Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the Republic.” The President retains his post until another President is elected. Thus article 92 states: “A person assuming the office of President…shall…continue in office until the person elected to the office of President at the next election held under article 91 assumes office.” By article 178 the President would also lose his or her office if he or she dies, resigns or is impeached.

The President may not always be in a position to perform his or her functions such as when he or she is absent from Guyana. In such a case article 96 (1) gives the President the power to authorize any elected member of the Cabinet to perform such functions of the office of President as he or she may specify. The person who is usually appointed is the Prime Minister unless he or she is not available in which case another cabinet member is appointed.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo

The President may be incapable of discharging the functions of his or her office and may be unable to authorize another person by reason of physical or mental infirmity. Even in such a case the President does not lose his or her office, even temporarily. The Prime Minister merely performs the President’s functions. If there is no Prime Minister then the functions would be performed by an elected member of the Cabinet elected by the Cabinet and, if there is no Prime Minister and no Cabinet, then by the Chancellor (article 96 (2)). The procedure is provided for by article 179.

There is nothing in the Constitution that says, implies, or can be construed as suggesting that the President would temporarily lose or be temporarily deprived of his or her post for any reason. It is only in such a case, if it were possible, would it have been necessary to have a provision for an ‘acting President.’ That there is no such provision in the Constitution confirms that a temporary loss of office by the President was never contemplated by the framers. If the President loses his or her post prematurely under article 178, the Prime Minister does not performs the functions of the President but succeeds to the office as President. He or she becomes the President.

There is nothing in the Constitution to suggest that a Prime Minister loses his or her position as Prime Minister or Member of Parliament while performing the functions of President. Since the holder of a constitutional office such as the Prime Minister, cannot be deprived of it unless the Constitution explicitly provides for it, the Prime Minister continues to hold his or her office while performing the functions of President. The Prime Minister is, therefore, entitled at all times, even when performing the functions of President, to sit and vote in Parliament.

When Prime Minister Sam Hinds performed the functions of President, he voluntarily stayed away from Parliament. The issue never arose in the National Assembly for a ruling during his tenure. Up to 2011 the Government had a majority of several seats so that the Government was never in jeopardy of losing a vote. Now, however, the Government has a one-seat majority and the vote of the Prime Minister is important to it. Since it is clear that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo can attend Parliament, even when he is performing the functions of the President, the Government’s one-seat majority would be protected.

There was reference in the press to the fact that there is a convention that the Prime Minister does not sit in Parliament when performing the functions of President. It is not a convention. It is a practice. For a practice to evolve into a convention holding the force of law, the practice must have historical provenance not must not violate any law or the Constitution, as it does in this case.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Burnham and Dr Jagan did work together to help win Guyana Independence.
    There is one thing i recall that was not Patriotic of the Dr at time.
    When the IMF was imposing demands because the county was leaning towards the Socialist views Mr Burnham had to take drastic measures because the Dr was using his influence in the sugar industry to call strikes.
    Politically it was good strategy but it destabilized the country further.
    Otherwise to that I think those two Leaders worked well together on major issues.
    This is kind of Leadership the Guyanese people needed for the Country to move forward

  2. Take your ignorance to Freedom House and see if you can pawn it. FYI, Moses Nagamootoo was ELECTED on APNU-AFC ticket.
    What is actually true is that Bharrat Jagdeo kicked out Donald Ramotar from becoming Opposition Leader and foisted himself on the party as the new Opposition Leader. If I lie, tell me who elected Jagdeo as Opposition Leader.

  3. Educating the public is vital and can be accomplished via town hall meetings. Those who are most likely to benefit seldom avail themselves and almost never attend these meetings. There has to be a means of getting those individuals engaged.

  4. Nagamoottoo don’t like nothing better than to rub those PPP minister every chance he gets. One thing the man forget. He was not elected to any office period but were installed. His own people knows it.

  5. Thank you Ralph Ramkaran for breaking this down. It makes me wonder how is it that Anil got that AG job? He is wrong so many times.

  6. Thank you looknah, unfortunately that will not change, some Indians will close their eyes to all the wrong doings of the Pee Pee Pee has done for 23 years and will continue if they were ever put in the position to rule. It is an Indian thing. I am not a party defender however I can stand in my truth why I left Guyana, that was because the Burnham Government. I am of a mix race Guyanese.

  7. I knew that jagdeo was speaking trash because in most countries when the president cannot be available in parliament the prime minister replace him as the head of state until the president returns .

  8. all the morally and ethically bankrupt ppp party does is; make its supporters more stupid by spreading propaganda and empty useless rhetoric. how can so many people allow a cabal of people who only care about themselves, their families and cronies lead them down the path of nowhere is yet to be figured out but, hopefully this will change through education and maturity of the population.

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