Justice Chang throws out gov’t challenge of parliamentary committees

– says court has no jurisdiction

Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang this afternoon threw out the Constitutional Motion brought by government to challenge the numerical make up of parliamentary select committees saying that the court had no authority.

Reading a lengthy ruling, Justice Chang said the court has no further jurisdiction to deal with this matter as to do so would be to interfere in internal workings of the National Assembly.

After dismissing the motion he awarded costs in the sums of $75,000 and $40,000 respectively to lawyers representing Opposition Leader David Granger and Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman who were named as the respondents in the case.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall had filed the motion back in February to challenge the numerical make up of the committees, saying that the government’s proposed proportion was five seats to the PPP, four to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and one to the Alliance For Change (AFC).

Nandlall was seeking a declaration that all standing committees and special select committees of the National Assembly of the 10th Parliament “are to be constituted in proportion” to the number of seats which each political party was allocated in the National Assembly based on the elections results.

“The composition of the Committee of Selection is violative of the principle of proportionality as contemplated by the Constitution since with this configuration the PPP/C with 32 seats has the same representation in the committee with APNU which only secured 26 seats. Therefore the PPP/C has only 44.44 percent of the representation with 32 seats and APNU has the same 44.44 percent representation, but with only 26 seats, leading to a disproportionality of almost five seats,” he had argued.

He was also seeking a declaration that the composition of the Committee of Selection done by elections – PPP/C, four; APNU, four and AFC, one – is a violation of the “principle of proportionality as contemplated by Articles 60 and 160 of the constitution and the provisions of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act No 15 of 2000 and accordingly, unconstitutional, unlawful, null, void and of no effect.”

He had sought orders setting aside, revoking, cancelling or annulling the composition of the committee on the grounds that it was in breach of the Constitution and a breach of the provisions of the Elections Laws (Amendment) and further directing the respondents and their servants/agents to constitute all Standing Committees and Sectoral Committees and every other Committee of the 10th Parliament, whose composition are not expressly set out in the Constitution, with due regard to and in compliance with the principle of proportionality.

Nandlall was absent from today’s proceedings. He is in Trinidad following the brutal murder of his teenaged cousin there last week.

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