September 25, 2016

Reversing course…

…on cutting budgets
In what is probably a signal that many of the decisions handed down by now retired Chief Justice Ian Chang will be reversed, the Court of Appeal headed by Chancellor (Ag) Carl Singh ruled that budgets can be cut by the Opposition in the National Assembly. Aficionados would recall when the Opposition APNU and AFC held a majority in the House during the last Parliament, they hacked away at the PPP/C’s budget quite furiously to the tune of $21B.
When APNU Speaker Raphael Trotman ruled that chopping was OK by the rules (as he read them), Attorney General Nandlall did the stipulated thing in these matters and asked the Courts to make the call. While the Assembly can make its own rules, those rules can’t be violative of the constitution. Constitutional supremacy and NOT Parliamentary supremacy rules the roost here – unlike Mother England.
So Justice Chang looked at the Constitution and noted the relevant Article 218 stated without any ambiguity that the Opposition can “approve” the submissions of the estimates by the Executive. He ruled in his inimitable style: “The power to amend MAY involve the power to approve, but a power to approve DOES NOT imply a power to amend.” The point he was making was, if you’re given the power to “approve” something… by its furthest extension you may possibly claim you also have the power NOT to approve.
And that’s what Justice Chang ruled: if the Opposition so desired it could “disapprove” the entire Budget – but NOT cherry pick what it wants to approve and what not to. In your Eyewitness’ estimation, the Chief Justice was spot on to point out if the Opposition were permitted to do that, it’s tantamount to having them BECOME the Executive. It’s the latter’s sole prerogative to craft the budget for the country based on its Manifesto on which it was elected.
More fundamentally the Chief Justice explained (if not in these exact words), if he were to allow the Opposition to craft the budget then he’d be sanctioning a coup d’etat! So on what grounds did Chancellor Singh, the new CJ (Ag) and Justice BS Roy reverse CJ Chang’s ruling? Well on absolutely NO GROUNDS. They did admit they agreed with Justice Chang that the Articles on which he based his judgement were the relevant ones.
All Chancellor Singh could say was: IT WAS ALL A MATTER OF INTERPRETATION!!! Justice Chang saw it his way, and he and his cohorts on the Appellate Bench saw it the opposite way.
This will become the “I say potato (po-tay- to); you say potato (po-taa-to) doctrine!

…on prison catastrophe?
After every administration since Burnham’s closed their eyes to the bubbling cauldron at 12 Camp St, let’s hope this catastrophe of 17 prisoners perishing during protests will bring about some needed reforms. Heck… what is really needed aren’t reforms… but a root-and-branch change in our stance on penology.
Right off the bat, we need a NEW prison outside of Georgetown. Secondly we need to reform our laws for possession of minor quantities of marijuana. Thirdly, we need a separate facility for remand prisoners: even choirboys will become affected when they come out of remand. Then every civilised state has a social services department to deal with prisoners’ complaints – especially remanded prisoners. Do we?
And if “rehabilitation” is one of the goals of incarceration (in addition to “punishment” and “retribution” etc) shouldn’t we have some job programme to reduce the recidivism rate?
We know jails aren’t supposed to be hotels… but they don’t have to be purgatory or hell, do they?

…at City Hall
Responding to accusations by Team Benschop that City Hall was stymieing its scheduling of meetings, Town Clerk Royston Forde claimed Benschop “attempts to implicate the City’s administration in the Canaille.”
Canaille? It refers to the “masses” but it derives from “dogs”. Ouch!!!

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