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…says consultations between country’s leaders must satisfy legal requirements
Days after the Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton sat down with President Irfaan Ali to “consult” on constitutional appointments, the Opposition is contending that information provided ahead of the high-level meeting was vague, woefully inadequate and insufficient.
The high-level meeting, the first of its kind between the two leaders, took place on Friday, May 13, 2022 at the Office of the President.
On Tuesday (May 17), A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, who had accompanied the Opposition Leader to that meeting, said consultations between the country’s leaders must satisfy legal requirements, as he expressed his dissatisfaction.
“… communication received to date from Ms. Gail Teixeira, in respect of the proposed consultation were all vague, woefully inadequate and insufficient to significantly advance the consultative process envisioned and provided for in the relevant Constitutional and statutory provisions,” MP Forde said as he sat alongside Norton during a press conference.
In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of Friday’s meeting, it was explained that the President and Opposition Leader were expected to consult on proposed nominees for the Integrity Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, the Police Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission, however, Norton requested the Curriculum Vitae (CV’s) of the persons under consideration.
“…the President agreed to make those CV’s available within two days,” a section of the joint statement read.
But Forde told the press, the information is still to be provided, though it was requested in advance of the meeting.
“To date, the material and grounds on which the recommendations of persons for appointments to the Constitutional and Statutory Commissions remain with the President. Hence, the consultation process has not been in accordance with the requirements of meaningful consultation,” he said.
The APNU+AFC MP said the Opposition expects that consultations must be in strict compliance with the Letter and spirit of the Constitution.
He said based on Article 232 of the Constitution, it was incumbent on the President to provide the Opposition Leader with critical information on the matters to be meaningfully consulted upon.
“The Constitution contemplates, by its definition of “consultation” and meaningful consultation,” that there will be full, effective and genuine consultation as opposed to formal and unproductive engagements. Article 232 (b) of the Constitution also requires that adequate time and information be given for the Party being consulted to respond. The Party providing the information is also required to provide all the material and the grounds on which the specific recommendations were made,” Forde reasoned.
It was pointed out that the Opposition Leader, on April 29, 2022, received a letter under the hand of Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, inviting him to a meeting with President Ali to consult on the constitutional appointments on April 13.
Norton responded to the letter on May 9, and in doing so, indicated that he stood ready to fulfill the constitutional responsibilities of the Leader of the Opposition.
In that letter, however, he reportedly pointed out that the April 29 letter from the Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs was vague and did not provide any information relating to the constitutional appointments.
Forde said it was not until May 11, 2022 that Minister Teixeira, in a letter, detailed the names of the Commissions to be discussed.
“The letter dated the 11th day of May, 2022, merely listed the Integrity Commission, Judicial Service Commission, Police Service Commission and persons proposed by the President to be appointed to the Teaching Service Commission,” Forde explained.
In a subsequent letter on May 12, the Opposition Leader, whilst restating his commitment to discharge his constitutional obligations, indicated that Minister Teixeira’s second letter was also bereft of any material upon which he could form an opinion on the subjects of the proposed consultation.
Norton had emphasized that the information was vague and woefully inadequate.
According to Forde, the Leader of the Opposition concluded that the communication Minister Teixeira did not contribute to him being afforded a reasonable opportunity to effectively participate in the proposed consultation process.