[www.inewsguyana.com] – One day after Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled that the National Assembly has no power, under the law to cut/reduce budgetary estimates, the Parliament Office has dispatched a statement claiming that the ruling is an interpretation that would have far-reaching ripples and effects throughout the Commonwealth parliamentary systems and procedures.
According to the statement, the right of the National Assembly to approve, including the right to amend budgetary estimates, is a long established right.
“The Ruling of the Hon. Chief Justice, Mr. Ian Chang, C.C.H., S.C., of January 29, 2014, provides an interpretation of the Rules and Standing Orders of the National Assembly relative to their conformity with Constitution of Guyana. Article 171 of the Guyana Constitution is the same as those provisions in the Constitutions of all Commonwealth nations as the Standing Orders and Rules of the Parliaments of Commonwealth Nations,” it statement noted.
The statement warned that though the decision of the High Court is to be respected, it remains subject to the inherent right of appeal that is reposed in the National Assembly.
“The doctrine of the separation of powers is the foundation of Guyana’s, and all parliamentary democracies, which recognises that the rule of law must be respected and upheld. The principle of comity dictates that the three branches of government – the Executive, the Legislative and the judicial are all separate and equal, and are to respect the rights and authority of each other.”
The Speaker was made a party to the proceedings in his capacity as a representative of the National Assembly and stated that it is for the National Assembly to determine and direct the way forward in conformity with Article 171.
The Combined Opposition has also maintained that power does reside with them to reduce budgetary estimates and skeptically warned of cuts to the upcoming 2014 National Budget.
Attorney – at – Law and Opposition Parliamentarian, Basil 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.
Chang in his ruling stated that the National Assembly can only approve or disapprove the entire budget or sections therein and 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.
Chang in his ruling and contrary to that of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman also stated that the Standing Orders of Parliament which permits the House to effect cut or reduction to the estimates is not law.
According to him, it is the function of the Court to act as a guardian of the Constitution and an interpreter of the Standing Orders along with the Speaker. “It must be noted that standing orders are not written laws.”
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.
The Opposition MP believes there are errors in the ruling and maintains that the Opposition has the right under the law to amend budgetary estimates. The Guyana Government had taken the Opposition to court following the slashing of the 2012 National Budget by $20.9 billion.