Opposition threatens criminal proceedings if NRF case against Govt successful

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Should the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) win the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) case against the Government in the High Court, it will consider among other things initiating criminal proceedings, should there be any evidence of abuse of the country’s finances.
This according to APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Roysdale Forde, who is the lead attorney in the case.
“The party will certainly consider that [criminal proceedings] and any other option that would be available at the time having regard to the circumstances. So if it is decided that at the time, having regard to what we know and the extent of the pillage of the fund, and the misuse of the funds that it is appropriate to institute criminal proceedings or any other sort of proceedings, it will be done,” the Senior Counsel said.
At the time, he was responding to a question posed by the Village Voice News during a People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) press conference on Tuesday.

The legal proceeding was initiating in the High Court on Monday by Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones, and renowned Trade Unionist, Norris Witter with the aim of invalidating the ‘controversial’ Natural Resource Fund Act, which was passed in the National Assembly last December amid much chaos, and in the absence of the Mace.
Forde and Canada-based Attorney-at-Law Selwyn Pietersare representing Jones and Witter in the case, in which, the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall; the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaac; the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh; and the Parliament Office are identified as the respondents in the matter.
Jones and Witter are seeking more than 18 declarations and orders, chief among them is a declaration that the passage of the Natural Resource Fund Bill by the National Assembly on December 29, 2021 in the absence of the Mace is unconstitutional and a breach of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, thereby making it null, void and of no legal effect.

Importantly, they also want the Court to order that all actions taken under the Act upon its enactment to be nullified.
According to Forde, should the Court invalidate the legislation, the Government would be required to reconstitute the Natural Resource Fund.
“The consequence of…the Court finding that the Act is unlawful is that those funds would have to be returned to the fund, the fund would have to be reconstituted,” the Senior Counsel said, noting that the Government would have to bear the economic consequence of ensuring that the NRF is reconstituted.

Leader of the PNCR, Aubrey Norton explained that the legal proceedings seek the Court’s determination of the constitutionality of the Natural Resource Fund Act in light of thefailure by the National Assembly and Parliament to consult the stakeholders and citizens in the enactment and passage of the Natural Resource Fund Act;the decision of the Speaker of the National Assembly to permit the Act to proceed in the face of a Petition presented to Parliament seeking time for consultation; and the Speaker allowing the Bill to be passed without calling on any Opposition Member of Parliament to debate it.


He too referenced to the passage of the Bill in the absence of the Mace in the Assembly.
Norton said despite the importance of these legal proceedings, Guyanese have recognized that the effective and transparent management of the nation’s oil funds requires a political solution based on Article 13 of the Constitution.
“The PNCR joins Civil Society and others in the call for such a National Inclusionary Approach – one that respects the fact that our natural endowment equally belongs to all citizens; and one that rejects the PPP’s approach of domination and control with the aim of facilitating and condoning cronyism, corruption, discrimination, and exclusio,” Norton said.

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