GEORGETOWN, Guyana, April 21, 2021 - Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, says the Government will be challenging the Chief Justice’s ruling on the appointments of parliamentary secretaries at the Court of Appeal.
Speaking on his weekly ‘Issues in the News’ programme, yesterday, the Attorney General said “I intend to aggressively prosecute that appeal and I intend also, in the Court of Appeal, to get the ruling of the Chief Justice stayed until the hearing and determination of the appeal,” he said.
Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire ruled on Monday, that the appointment of Vikash Ramkissoon and Sarah Browne as Parliamentary Secretaries and non-elected Members of the National Assembly was illegal as they were successful PPP Candidates at the last elections,and therefore are to be removed from the positions and seats in the National Assembly.
The matter was filed by Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, challenging the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries, Ms. Sarah Browne and Mr. Vikash Ramkissoon who were appointed by president Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali to sit in the National Assembly.
MP Jones contended that the appointments were unlawful because the parliamentary secretaries came from the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) List of Candidates at the 2020 elections.
His attorney, Roysdale Forde argued that the provision of the Constitution which governs the appointment of technocratic ministers are identical to the provisions of the Constitution that govern the appointment of parliamentary secretaries. He used the argument the current AG, while in Opposition, used in the Keith Scott and Winston Felix case.
The CJ in her ruling, considered herself bound by the decision rendered by the then Chief Justice Ian Chang where he upheld that submission and ruled that Scott and Felix were not lawfully appointed technocratic ministers.
“They cannot be elected and non-elected members at the same time,” she said. The Chief Justice pointed out that Parliamentary Secretaries, who are regarded as junior ministers, can have voting rights if they are extracted from the list of elected members by the Representative of the List.
The Chief Justice said that the arguments submitted by Attorney General Anil Nandlall who appeared on behalf of Brown and Ramkissoon had no merit.
In a previous case on which the CJ relied for her judgement, PPP Member Dennis Morean filed a constitutional motion questioning the legality of Former Ministers Keith Scott and Winston Felix sitting in the National Assembly as Technocrat Ministers, after they were both candidates for the APNU+AFC list for the 2015 elections. Both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal ruled that their appointments were illegal.
However, According to Nandlall: “In my humble view, the Chief Justice fell into grave error because the constitutional provisions which govern the appointment of parliamentary secretaries are different from the constitutional provision that govern the appointment of technocratic ministers. They are not the same provisions,” he said.
In his submissions, AG Nandlall sought to highlight the difference between the two provisions in the Constitution. He said they do not apply interchangeably; they are found in different parts of the Constitution and govern different personnel.
“In my view, the Constitution says clearly, a Parliamentary Secretary can come from either the List or off the List but the person must be qualified to be elected to the National Assembly,” he said.
AG Nandlall said the Government would challenge the CJ’s decision at the High Court since they believe that the Parliamentary Secretaries have the right to sit in the National Assembly as non-voting members.
“That is exactly what the Court of Appeal did when Justice Chang ruled that Felix and Scott were unlawfully put in the Parliament. They never left the Parliament, they sat there for the entirety of their term. They received salaries because the Court of Appeal granted a stay,” he said.
The AG also said these litigations are good since they would help to clarify grey areas in the Constitution.