The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has moved to the High Court seeking legal intervention for the removal of Members of Parliament (MPs) Winston Felix and Keith Scott, serving under the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) umbrella, from the National Assembly.
The Party on Monday had expressed concerns over the selection of Citizenship Minister Felix and Junior Communities Minister Scott as technocrats to serve in the 11th Parliament.
According to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, the APNU+AFC parliamentarians are taking up posts that have been allocated in an unconstitutional and unlawful way.
The motion was filed in the High Court on Wednesday, the same day Minister of State, Joseph Harmon dared the Attorney to “do what he does best”, and move to the courts. PPP/C member Desmond Morian has been named as the “Applicant”, while the Attorney General of Guyana and Clerk of the National Assembly have been listed as the respondents.
The motion filed declared that “Winston Gordon Felix and Keith Winston Harold Scott are not lawful members of and cannot sit in the National Assembly of the 11th Parliament of Guyana”. It is seeking “an order directing the second named respondent to prevent Winston Gordon Felix and Keith Winston Harold Scott from sitting in the National Assembly of the 11th Parliament of Guyana, unless and until their names are extracted from A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change National Top-up List of Candidates for the May 11th 2015 General Elections”.
The grounds for the application state that Articles 60, 103, 105, 160 and 232 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Chapter 1:01, conjointly set out the qualifications of persons who are elected and non-elected members of the National Assembly, voting and non-voting members of the National Assembly; that having regard to the clear language and the intendment of Articles 60, 103, 105, 160 and 232 of the Constitution of Guyana, the said Winston Gordon Felix and Keith Winston Harold Scott are not lawful members of and cannot sit in the National Assembly of the 11th Parliament of Guyana.
Nandlall on Monday said that pursuant to the Representation of the People Act, Felix and Scott were taking up positions which were unlawfully given.
“There are Ministers of Government who have taken and subscribed to the oath of office as Members of the National Assembly and are sitting Members thereof, but who are not lawfully and constitutionally qualified to be Members of that august body. Their presence in the National Assembly is, therefore, unlawful and unconstitutional. It is the Constitution and to a lesser extent, the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03 that determine who is qualified to be a Member of the National Assembly. By virtue of Article Eight, the Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana, and any other law which is inconsistent with it is void to the extent of that inconsistency. So, if there is a conflict between the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, the Constitution shall prevail,” Nandlall said.
The Ministers, who have no voting rights as technocratic Ministers, as only the allotted 33 Government members can vote in the National Assembly, are two of four technocrats which can be appointed by the President to represent his Government.
However, the PPP/C deemed the appointments of the technocratic Ministers a violation of the Constitution. Nandlall pointed out that the three Ministers so appointed are on the coalition’s Lists of Candidates for Members of Parliament that were submitted to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by the Representative of the APNU+AFC lists.
Article 105 states: “A Minister who was not an elected member of the Assembly at the time of his appointment shall (unless he becomes such a member) be a member of the Assembly by virtue of holding the office of Minister, but shall not vote in the Assembly.”
Nandlall said that it was under these provisions that a technocratic Minister holds a seat in the National Assembly as a non-elected non-voting Member.
“In other words, a person who was on a list of candidates that won a seat in the Parliament and who is, therefore, “an elected Member of the National Assembly” cannot become a technocrat minister and hold a seat in the National Assembly under Articles 103 (3) and 105 … In short, Winston Felix and Keith Scott are constitutional trespassers in the National Assembly,” the former Attorney General said.
However, Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs had told Guyana Times that the PPP/C’s position and interpretation of the law was incorrect. The Clerk said he was informed of the PPP/C’s position and immediately consulted with the former Clerk of the National Assembly, Frank Narine, and also referred to the Constitution. Based on that, Isaacs explained that those persons on the lists that are not extracted by GECOM to be Members of Parliament can be appointed technocratic Ministers.
… some parts without power, water
Person residing in Berbice and along the West Demerara area are now struggling with their daily lives as they have been without sanitary water and electricity for four consecutive days, following the freak storm which tore through the coastline of Guyana on Sunday last.
Residents are bitterly complaining of constant power outages, while others are without electricity. Some residents are even without access to sanitary water to carry out their daily tasks.
“Fish pond water the people of Whim got to use. We nah get water to cook. The water we get we got to use to wash clothes and you got to bathe with it,” one resident complained in a video he posted on social media.
In addition, other residents of Berbice, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) complained to Guyana Times about their desperate situation. “Imagine majority of Berbice without water and the electricity going on and off whole day. These are residents from the birth place of the PM Moses Nagamootoo,” another individual complained.
The situation is no different on the West Coast of Demerara (WCD) in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara). Lakeraj Ram of Leonora, WCD, vented his frustration of losing thousands of dollars in food items due to the constant power outages.
“One day alone I probably throw out $25,000 in food. We calling GPL but they are not helping us. It’s really frustrating man,” he explained.
Teknarine Singh, also from Leonora, expressed similar sentiments.
“I can’t take it no more. Everybody complaining but nothing is happening,” he lamented.
A cancer patient, Mohamed Ali, who returned to Guyana for vacation expressed his complete dissatisfaction with the services available to the Guyanese public.
“I have my medicines in the fridge and it has to stay somewhere cool right, but now I hoping it don’t spoil. I can’t understand this,” he noted.
Meanwhile, in a press release, the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) had explained that as a result of the storm which affected the coastal areas in Demerara and Berbice, its primary and secondary networks sustained extensive damage.
A total of 21 broken poles have been recorded in Demerara while Berbice has recorded five thus far. However, it appears that the problem is not yet fixed and residents are demanding answers.
The power company had reported that the most critical confirmed report emanating from Berbice is a broken pole at Ithaca which supports a critical transmission line linking East and West Berbice thereby affecting East Berbice residents.
A passenger in a Route 42 minibus is nursing gunshot injuries to both of her legs following a robbery in the vicinity of the Flour Mill Road, Eccles, East Bank Demerara (EBD) on Thursday afternoon about 12:50h.
Sharon Baldeo, 42, of Section C Golden Grove, EBD, was treated at the Georgetown Public Hospital and sent away. Based on reports gathered, Baldeo and her daughter were on their way to Georgetown and the suspect who was sitting in the back seat of the minibus asked to be put off at Flour Mill Road, Eccles.
As he disembarked the minibus, he reportedly grabbed Baldeo’s hand bag containing $245,000, an iPhone and personal documents but she put up a fight.
In retaliation, the man whipped out a gun that he had in his pocket and discharged about three rounds hitting the woman in her legs. He then made good his escape on foot through the Flour Mill Road.
Baldeo, when contacted, told Guyana Times that she went to the Republic Bank Branch in Diamond where she withdrew the money. She and her daughter then boarded the minibus which heading to the city.
As they entered the minibus, the other seats were filled hence they were forced to occupy the back passenger seat where the suspect was. The injured woman noted that as they continued their journey, she opened her bag and took out $1000 to pay the conductor. After a few minutes, she added that the suspect requested to be put off at the Flour Mill Road.
As the minibus stopped, she turned her legs to the side to allow the passenger to pass but as he passed, he grabbed her bag and started to pull it.
“I didn’t let go easily: as he pulled, I pulled and it continued for a good couple seconds … then he pulled out the gun and the driver, the conductor and the passengers run out of the bus … he continue to pull the bag and the handle burst, but I nah lose … is then the gun went off,” she explained.
The suspect then relieved Basdeo of her bag and ran into the Agricola Area. The Police in a statement revealed that they have arrested one man who was positively identified as the perpetrator, but Baldeo claimed that she was never called to identify the man.
After receiving treatment, she visited the Ruimveldt Police Station where she saw four men sitting on a bench, but none of them was the perpetrator. She was later made to understand that another man was arrested and was being kept at Grove Police Station, but, up to late Thursday afternoon, she was not asked to identify him.
The Police stated that they are continuing their investigations into the shooting incident. In May, Hardat Kissoon, a rice farmer of Cane Grove, East Coast Demerara, who was a passenger in a Route 44 minibus was shot dead during a robbery along the Rupert Craig Highway.
It was reported that the man had just left a city bank after changing a cheque and was followed by one man who posed as a passenger. As the journey continued, the man requested the bus to stop in the vicinity of the University of Guyana access road where he attempted to take Kissoon’s bag containing over $500,000, but Kissoon held onto it.
The man then pulled out a handgun and discharged a round at Kissoon hitting him to his chest. The bandit then relieved the man of the bag and threw it through the window to an accomplice. Kissoon was pronounced dead on arrival at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Thus far, one of the alleged suspects, Sherwin Trotman was arraigned for his murder.
In light of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government’s plan to table the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill 2015 at the next sitting of the 11th Parliament, former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall has outlined that the new piece of legislation will not apply to former Presidents nor the current President.
In a statement on Thursday, Nandlall explained that the Bill seeks to repeal the Former Presidents (Benefits and other Facilities) Act 2009 and replace it with a regime of benefits and other facilities awarded to Executive Presidents after they demit office.
“In my humble view, the Bill, if it becomes law, will not affect nor apply to the benefits and other facilities which accrue to any former President under the Former President (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009. I wish to further submit that it will also not affect nor apply to President David Granger who is entitled to the benefits and facilitates under the 2009 Act, on the same basis and for the same reasons as former Presidents,” he stated.
Nandlall opined that if enacted, the 2015 Bill cannot retroactively or retrospectively affect the entitlements conferred by the 2009 Act since these entitlements have already accumulated to the former Presidents. He went onto explain that as it relates to Granger, the benefits were accrued to him the moment he assumed office since the 2009 Act was in force. However, he noted that these benefits will become due only after demits office.
On this note, the former AG noted that the 2015 Bill can only operate prospectively and therefore, will only apply to Presidents who assume office after Granger. “More significantly, any attempt to utilize this Bill as an instrument to deny and deprive any or all of the aforementioned persons their entitlement under the 2009 Act, would be unlawful, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect,” he posited.
The former Legal Affairs Minister supported his position by making references to Articles 222 (1-4) of the Constitution. He declared that the salaries and allowances of those holding such offices as the President are charged to the Consolidated Fund, hence they are not subjected to the approval or disapproval of the National Assembly. In fact, he stated this is an indication of the level of protection and the security of tenure which the Constitution accords to these office holders.
Furthermore, Nandlall referred to Article 222 (3) which protects the salaries, allowances and terms of service from any alteration that will cause the office holder to lose his or her benefits after their appointment. He added “as it relates to Presidents, I submit that the benefits and other facilities conferred by the 2009 Act are captured in these “allowances and terms of service” to which Article 223 makes reference. It is clear therefore, that while the remuneration package of these office holders can increase, no diminution is permitted even after they would have left office”.
Commenting on President Granger’s position, Nandlall outlined that the current President assumed office while the 2009 Act is in force, and as such, he is guaranteed certain facilities and benefits which will accrue to him when he ceases to hold the Office of President.
“Article 222(3) protects those facilities and benefits from any alteration to his detriment. The 2015 Bill cannot and does not affect those facilities and benefits,” the former AG positioned. He further outlined that the courts, both in Guyana and throughout the Commonwealth, have given varied possible definition to the term “property” to include: money, rent charges, mortgages, easements, shares, or anything that has economic value.
Nandlall went onto say that every single entitlement listed in the 2009 Act as a benefit or facility to a former President, is capable of being converted into monetary or economic value. These entitlements he said, therefore, are the legal property of those to whom they statutorily accrue and Article 142 of the Constitution prevents the repeal of the Act by this 2015 Bill from having the effect of compulsorily acquiring the property which the 2009 Act confers, without prompt and adequate compensation.
Having established that the 2015 Bill will only apply to Presidents post Granger, Nandlall believes that some of its clauses are infected with the virus of unconstitutionality and are accordingly liable to be struck down by a court for want of constitutionality.
…Amerindian land titling and Toshaos’ elections at standstill.
Minister of the Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Sydney Allicock, in a recent interview with the Guyana Times, stated that the members of the indigenous community will make a greater contribution to society within a few years’ time given that he and members of his ministry are on a mission for “betterment” of the interior regions.
He stated that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs is critical in binding people together in this country since it represents the indigenous segment of our population. He mentioned that this aspect of indigenous affairs is critical since Amerindians need to be more informed not only about what is happening in their small communities, but also in the wider society. The Minister also stated that Amerindians need to be better informed and able to manage their affairs in a responsible manner.
Allicock posited that the ministry is aware of the natural resources available in these communities and the experience that Amerindians have developed through years of managing and respecting their environment.
However, the Minister indicated that these developments present new challenges, including educating and enhancing Village Councils so that they would be able to be more accountable and become better planners and negotiators. The aim, he said, was to continue the good work of managing the natural resources through an understanding of national laws and respect for the ecosystem. He added that further development of the indigenous communities would take some time, but it is expected that within the next 3-5 years these communities would have a better sense of management in business, social and academic issues while hopefully making significant contributions to the national stage.
In relation to the APNU/AFC 100-Day Plan, Allicock indicated that work has begun to meet targeted activities. He gave the example of the national Toshaos’ elections where he indicated that the timetable has been set to begin the auditing of the village financial assets, requiring that proper accountability is ensured during the transition of Village Councils.
The national Toshaos’ elections were initially rescheduled for July 22nd after being postponed due to the May 11general and regional elections. While Amerindians are actively calling for Toshaos’ elections to proceed as planned, Minister Allicock failed to say whether the date would be respected or adjusted to accommodate the auditing process.
Allicock also volunteered that he is eager to recommence work on the two LCDS funded projects, the Amerindian Land Titling Project (ALT) and the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF). He indicated that the ministry is currently reviewing these and is engaged in discussions with the UNDP, partner entity to both projects. He confirmed that after a final discussion on the matter, the ministry will go ahead with the projects.
However, this newspaper was informed that the Amerindian Land Titling Project staff were terminated since June 15 despite having renewed contracts predating to March. Additionally, on June 15 work was resumed under the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF Project). Amerindian land titling remains one of the biggest challenges indigenous peoples face in Guyana and the ALT Project was created to address these issues, some of which have been pending for years. The emphasis placed by the previous Government in promoting Amerindian land rights resulted in the LCDS funded US $ 10.7M ALT Project which since the Government took Office, has been on a standstill.
In addition to these two projects, under the previous PPPC administration, several other initiatives aimed at developing Amerindian and hinterland communities had been initiated by the former Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, now Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs. These include the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme responsible for Community Support Officers, the National Hinterland Secure Livelihood Programme, eco-tourism and youth projects, the Arawak and Warrau language revival projects, the distribution of musical instruments for Amerindian villages, sports equipment for Amerindian villages, subventions to the Bina-Hill Institute (North Rupununi), construction of village offices, and other facilities. The Ministry previously provided heavy equipment such as vehicles, tractors and other agricultural equipment while ensuring that basic infrastructure inclusive of guest houses and construction of multi-purpose buildings in Amerindian villages. Drip irrigation systems were also installed in communities. Many of these projects were implemented using the annual Presidential Grants launched under former President Bharrat Jagdeo.