Sunday, June 26, 2022

Attorney General asking court to dismiss case challenging oil fund law

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Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall said that oral arguments on the challenge to Guyana’s oil fund law which was passed in December are set for September 12.

He approached the nation’s Supreme Court last week with an affidavit asking for a dismissal of the lawsuit.

“We are saying that this is an abuse of the process of the Court, that the challenge to this Act is completely without basis and completely without merit and that this case should be dismissed,” Nandlall said.

The grounds upon which the challenge is made, Nandlall said, are unknown to the law. The lawsuit was filed by Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones, and Norris Witter, a trade unionist, after they failed to prevent the majority vote which passed the Act.

Among the arguments made against the validity of the law is that there was no consultation, allegedly a violation of Article 13 of Guyana’s Constitution. Nandlall said there were extensive consultations. But even if there weren’t, he explained that the constitutional requirement for consultation is aspirational, not justiciable.

The suit further argued that the absence of the Speaker’s ceremonial mace at the time of the law’s passing rendered it invalid. It was Opposition members of parliament who removed the mace from its placeholder on the night the law was passed.

Nandlall argued that the constitution makes no requirement for a mace to be present to pass a law, nor is there any requirement in Parliament rules called standing orders.

“Parliament’s law-making powers have nothing to do with a mace being in place or a mace not being in place, or not a right mace being in place or a wrong mace being in place,” he said.

And in response to the argument made that the Opposition was not afforded an opportunity to address the Bill in the House, the Attorney General said that is a completely erroneous and flawed statement to make. The Opposition was given the opportunity to address the Bill, but they descended into the well of the House instead and proceeded to shout and whistle to disrupt the proceedings.

“And then they turn around now and say that the law was not properly passed because they were not given an opportunity to speak,” Nandlall said. “They didn’t take advantage of an opportunity.”

Parliament has since approved US$607 million in withdrawals to support Guyana’s 2022 budget. The first US$200 million was withdrawn last week.

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