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…Ramjattan says for soliciting advice from AG on no-confidence motions
Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan (MP) said the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir erred when he opted to solicit legal advice from the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall on the No-Confidence Motions against the Leader of the Opposition, and the ministers of health and home affairs.
Earlier this month, the main opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) – filed no-confidence motions against the Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony and the Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn. Those motions were followed by a government-sponsored no-confidence motion against the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon.
Days later, the Speaker turned to the Attorney General for legal advice on the motions. On Tuesday, Ramjattan told reporters that the Speaker’s decision to request legal advice from the Attorney General was unethical.
“It is wholly in error; it is unethical in the circumstances,” Ramjattan said in response to a question posed during an APNU+AFC press conference on Tuesday.
He explained that under the Constitution of Guyana, the Attorney General is the chief advisor for the Executive Branch of Government, and though the Speaker, as part of the Legislative Branch, can seek legal advice from the Attorney General, it must be done discretely.
“The Speaker was wrong to ask the Attorney General on these two issues, that is, the motions against the two ministers, and the other one, in relation to the Leader of the Opposition,” Ramjattan said.
He reasoned: “Clearly, at a Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister would have been advised by Cabinet Members to move the motion against Joe Harmon; and so the Attorney General would have been there as a participant in relation to that.”
Ramjattan said further that the Attorney General, being part of Cabinet, would have long determined that the motion is valid, though the Constitution says otherwise.
“The Leader of the Opposition, if you get 31 seats, at least 10 seats within the opposition side of the Parliament must take it to the Speaker before a no-confidence motion could even be considered,” Ramjattan said while noting that it is clearly stated in the Constitution.
Against this background, the AFC Leader said the motion against the Opposition Leader should have been dismissed forthwith. Ramjattan said as was done by past Speaker Raphael Trotman, Nadir should have sought guidance from Clerks of Parliament within CARICOM and or the UK.
On Tuesday, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, told a local journalist that the motions are still with the Attorney General, and therefore have not been placed on the Order Paper for next Tuesday’s sitting of the National Assembly.
“As far as I know, the motions are still with the Attorney General, Mr Anil Nandlall,” the Clerk said while noting that he has been assured by the AG that the advice would be provided before the end of the week.
Isaacs said while he is more than capable to advice the Speaker on the Standing Orders, the motions in question are related to the Constitution, which require legal guidance.
The Opposition has said the motion against Harmon is baseless. Senior Counsel and Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Roysdale Forde has said that: “any attempt by the PPP to file a no confidence motion against the Leader of the Opposition will be baseless, frivolous, unconstitutional, vexatious and an abuse of the National Assembly. The Speaker will have no basis to allow such a motion and will have no choice but to discard it. The installed Prime Minister, Mark Phillips, in whose name it is reported the purported motion is to be filed may wish to allow himself the benefit of advice and guidance from credible constitutional experts and legal minds of which there appears to be a considerable and growing deficit within the ranks of the PPP.”